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168517 ?m 

Gift of 


With the aid of the 



Of Time and the River 




Thomas Wolfe 

"Who knoweth that spirit of man* that goeth upward, and 
the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" 




Printed in the United States of America 

All riff/its reserved. No part of this book 
may be reproduced in any form without 
the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons 

Sun Dial Press Reprint Edition, 1944, 
by special arrangement with Charles Scribner's Sons 



"Crito, my dear friend Crito, that, be- 
lieve me, that is what I seem to hear, as 
the Corybants hear flutes in the air, and 
the sound of those words rings and 
echoes in my ears and I can listen to 
nothing else" 












Of Time and the River 

"Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen bliihn, 
Im dunkeln Laub die Gold-Orangen gliihn, 
Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht, 
Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht, 
Kennst du es wohl? 

Dahin! Dahin 
Mocht' ich mit dir, mein Geliebter, ziehn! 

Kennst du das Haus, auf Saulen ruht sein Dach. 
Es glanzt der Saal, es schimmert das Gemach, 
Und Marmorbilder stehn und sehn mich an: 
Was hat man dir, du armes Kind, getan? 
Kennst du es wohl? 

Dahin! Dahin 
Mocht' ich mit dir, mein Beschiitzer, ziehn! 

Kennst du den Berg und seinen Wolkensteg? 
Das Maultier sucht im Nebel seinen Weg, 
In Hohlen wohnt der Drachen alte Brut, 
Es stiirzt der Pels und iiber ihn die Flut: 
Kennst du ihn wohl? 

Dahin! Dahin 
Geht unser Weg; Vater, lass uns ziehnl" 


. . . of wandering forever and the earth again . . . of seed-time, bloom, 
and the mellow-dropping harvest. And of the big flowers, the rich 
flowers, the strange unknown flowers. 

Where shall the weary rest? When shall the lonely of heart come 
home? What doors are open for the wanderer? And which of us shall 
find his father, know his face, and in what place, and in what time, and 
in what land? Where? Where the weary of heart can abide forever, 
where the weary of wandering can find peace, where the tumult, the 
fever, and the fret shall be forever stilled. 

Who owns the earth? Did we want the earth that we should wander 
on it? Did we need the earth that we were never still upon it? Whoever 
needs the earth shall have the earth: he shall be still upon it, he shall rest 
within a little place, he shall dwell in one small room forever. 

Did he feel the need of a thousand tongues that he sought thus through 
the moil and horror of a thousand furious streets? He shall need a tongue 
no longer, he shall need no tongue for silence and the earth : he shall speaf^ 
no word through the rooted lips, the snake's cold eye will peer for him 
through sockets of the brain, there will be no cry out of the heart where 
wells the vine. 

The tarantula is crawling through the rotted oa\, the adder lisps 
Igainst the breast, cups fall: but the earth will endure forever. The flower 
of love is living in the wilderness, and the elmroot threads the bones of 
buried lovers. 

The dead tongue withers and the dead heart rots, blind mouths crawl 
tunnels through the buried flesh, but the earth will endure forever; hair 
grows life April on the buried breast and from the sockets of the brain 
the death flowers grow and will not perish. 

O flower of love whose strong lips drin\ us downward into death, in 
all things far and fleeting, enchantress of our twenty thousand days, the 
brain will madden and the heart be twisted, broken by her tyss, but glory t 
glory, glory, she remains: Immortal love, alone and aching in the wilder" 
ness, we cried to you: You were not absent from our loneliness. 


ABOUT fifteen years ago, at the end of the second decade of this cen- 
tury, four people were standing together on the platform of the rail- 
way station of a town in the hills of western Catawba. This little station, 
really just a suburban adjunct of the larger town which, behind 
the concealing barrier of a rising ground, swept away a mile or two 
to the west and north, had become in recent years the popular point of 
arrival and departure for travellers to and from the cities of the east, and 
now, in fact, accommodated a much larger traffic than did the central 
station of the town, which was situated two miles westward around the 
powerful bend of the rails. For this reason a considerable number of 
people were now assembled here, and from their words and gestures, a 
quietly suppressed excitement that somehow seemed to infuse the drowsy 
mid-October afternoon with an electric vitality, it was possible to feel the 
thrill and menace of the coming train. 

An observer would have felt in the complexion of this gathering a 
somewhat mixed quality a quality that was at once strange and famil- 
iar, alien and native, cosmopolitan and provincial. It was not the single 
native quality of the usual crowd that one saw on the station platforms 
of the typical Catawba town as the trains passed through. This crowd 
was more mixed and varied, and it had a strong coloring of worldly 
smartness, the element of fashionable sophistication that one sometimes 
finds in a place where a native and alien population have come together. 
And such an inference was here warranted : the town of Altamont a mile 
or so away was a well-known resort and the mixed gathering on the sta- 
tion platform was fairly representative of its population. But all of these 
people, both strange and native, had been drawn here by a common ex- 
perience, an event which has always been of first interest in the lives of 
all Americans. This event is the coming of the train. 

It would have been evident to an observer that of the four people who 
were standing together at one end of the platform three the two women 
and the boy were connected by the relationship of blood. A stranger 
would have known instantly that the boy and the young woman were 
brother and sister and that the woman was their mother. The relation* 


ship was somehow one of tone, texture, time, and energy, and of the 
grain and temper of the spirit. The mother was a woman of small but 
strong and solid figure. Although she was near her sixtieth year, her hair 
was jet black and her face, full of energy and power, was almost 
as smooth and unlined as the face of a girl. Her hair was brushed 
back from a forehead which was high, white, full, and naked-looking, 
and which, together with the expression of her eyes, which were brown, 
and rather worn and weak, but constantly thoughtful, constantly reflec- 
tive, gave her face the expression of straight grave innocence that chil- 
dren have, and also of strong native intelligence and integrity. Her skin 
was milk white, soft of texture, completely colorless save for the nose, 
which was red, broad and fleshy at the base, and curiously masculine. 

A stranger seeing her for the first time would have known somehow 
that the woman was a member of a numerous family, and that her face 
had the tribal look. He would somehow have felt certain that the woman 
had brothers and that if he could see them, they would look like her. Yet, 
this masculine quality was not a quality of sex, for the woman, save for 
the broad manlike nose, was as thoroughly female as a woman could be. 
It was rather a quality of tribe and charactera tribe and character that 
was decisively masculine. 

The final impression of the woman might have been this: that her 
life was somehow above and beyond a moral judgment, that no matter 
what the course or chronicle of her life may have been, no matter what 
crimes of error, avarice, ignorance, or thoughtlessness might be charged 
to her, no matter what suffering or evil consequences may have resulted 
to other people through any act of hers, her life was somehow beyond 
these accidents of time, training, and occasion, and the woman was as 
guiltless as a child, a river, an avalanche, or any force of nature whatso- 

The younger of the two women was about thirty years old. She was 
a big woman, nearly six feet tall, large, and loose of bone and limb, al- 
most gaunt. Both women were evidently creatures of tremendous en- 
ergy, but where the mother suggested a constant, calm, and almost tire- 
less force, the daughter was plainly one of those big, impulsive creatures 
of the earth who possess a terrific but undisciplined vitality, which they 
are ready to expend with a whole-souled and almost frenzied prodigality 
on any person, enterprise, or object which appeals to their grand affec- 

This difference between the two women was also reflected in their 


1 < 

faces. The face of the mother, for all its amazing flexibility, the startled 
animal-like intentness with which her glance darted from one object to 
another, and the mobility of her powerful and delicate mouth, which 
she pursed and convolved with astonishing flexibility in such a way as 
to show the constant reflective effort of her mind, was nevertheless the 
face of a woman whose spirit had an almost elemental quality of pa- 
tience, fortitude and calm. 

The face of the younger woman was large, high-boned, and generous 
and already marked by the frenzy and unrest of her own life. At mo- 
ments it bore legibly and terribly the tortured stain of hysteria, of nerves 
stretched to the breaking point, of the furious impatience, unrest and 
dissonance of her own tormented spirit, and of impending exhaustion 
and collapse for her overwrought vitality. Yet, in an instant, this gaunt, 
strained, tortured, and almost hysterical face could be transformed by 
an expression of serenity, wisdom, and repose that would work unbe- 
lievably a miracle of calm and radiant beauty on the nervous, gaunt, 
and tortured features. 

Now, each in her own way, the two women were surveying the other 
people on the platform and the new arrivals with a ravenous and ab- 
sorptive interest, bestowing on each a wealth of information, comment, 
and speculation which suggested an encyclopaedic knowledge of the 
history of every one in the community. 

" Why, yes, child," the mother was saying impatiently, as she turned 
her quick glance from a group of people who at the moment were the 
subject of discussion "that's what I'm telling you! Don't I know? 
. . . Didn't I grow up with all those people? . . . Wasn't Emma 
Smathers one of my girlhood friends ? . . . That boy's not this woman's 
child at all. He's Emma Smathers' child by that first marriage." 

"Well, that's news to me," the younger woman answered. "That's 
certainly news to me. I never knew Steve Randolph had been married 
more than once. I'd always thought that all that bunch were Mrs. Ran- 
dolph's children." 

"Why, of course not!" the mother cried impatiently. "She never had 
any of them except Lucille. All the rest of them were Emma's children. 
Steve Randolph was a man of forty-five when he married her. He'd been 
a widower for years poor Emma died in childbirth when Bernice was 
born nobody ever thoughthe'd marry again and nobody ever expected 
this woman to have any children of her own for she was almost as old 
as he was why, yes! hadn't she been married before, a widow, you 


know, when she met him, came here after her first husband's death from 
some place way out West oh, Wyoming, or Nevada or Idaho, one of 
those States, you know and had never had chick nor child, as the saying 
goes till she married Steve. And that woman was every day of forty- 
four years old when Lucille was born." 

"Uh-huh! . . . Ah-hah!" the younger woman muttered absently, in 
a tone of rapt and fascinated interest, as she looked distantly at the people 
in the other group, and reflectively stroked her large chin with a big, 
bony hand. "So Lucille,, then, is really John's half-sister?" 

"Why, of course!" the mother cried. "I thought every one knew that, 
Lucille's the only one that this woman can lay claim to. The rest of 
them were Emma's." 

" Well, that's certainly news to me," the younger woman said slowly 
as before. "It's the first / ever heard of it. ... And you say she was 
forty-four when Lucille was born?" 

"Now, she was all of that" the mother said. "I know. And she may 
have been even older." 

"Well," the younger woman said, and now she turned to her silent 
husband, Barton, with a hoarse snigger, "it just goes to show that while 
there's life there's hope, doesn't it ? So cheer up, honey," she said to him, 
"we may have a chance yet." But despite her air of rough banter her 
clear eyes for a moment had a look of deep pain and sadness in them. 

"Chance!" the mother cried strongly, with a little scornful pucker of 
the lips "why, of course there is! If I was your age again I'd have a 
dozen and never think a thing of it." For a moment she was silent, 
pursing her reflective lips. Suddenly a faint sly smile began to flicker at 
the edges of her lips, and turning to the boy, she addressed him with an 
air of sly and bantering mystery : 

"Now, boy," she said "there's lots of things that you don't know . . , 
you always thought you were the last the youngest didn't you?" 

"Well, wasn't I?" he said. 

"H'm!" she said with a little scornful smile and an air of great mystery 
"There's lots that I could tell you " 

"Oh, my God!" he groaned, turning towards his sister with an im- 
ploring face. "More mysteries! . . . The next thing Til find that there 
were five sets of triplets after I was born Well, come on, Mama," he 
cried impatiently. "Don't hint around all day about it. ... What's 
the secret now how many were there?" 

"H'm!" she said with a little bantering scornful, and significant smile. 


"O Lord!" he groaned again "Did she ever tell you what it was?" 
Again he turned imploringly to his sister. 

She snickered hoarsely, a strange high-husky and derisive falsetto 
laugh, at the same time prodding him stiffly in the ribs with her big 
fingers : 

"Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi," she laughed. "More spooky business, hey? You 
don't know the half of it. She'll be telling you next you were only the 

"H'm!" the older woman said, with a little scornful smile of her pursed 
lips. "Now I could tell him more than that! The fourteenth! Pshaw!" 
sh said contemptuously "I could tell him " 

"O God!" he groaned miserably. "I knew it! ... I don't want to 
hear it." 

"K, k, k, k, k," the younger woman snickered derisively, prodding 
him in the ribs again. 

"No, sir," the older woman went on strongly "and that's not all 
cither! Now, boy, I want to tell you something that you didn't know," 
and as she spoke she turned the strange and worn stare of her serious 
brown eyes on him, and levelled a half-clasped hand, fingers pointing, 
a gesture loose, casual, and instinctive and powerful as a man's. 
"There's a lot I could tell you that you never heard. Long years after 
you were born, child why, at the time I took you children to the Saint 
Louis Fair " here her face grew stern and sad, she pursed her lips 
strongly and shook her head with a short convulsive movement "oh, 
when I think of it to think what I went through oh, awful, awful, 
you know," she whispered ominously. 

"Now, Mama, for God's sake, I don't want to hear it!" he fairly 
shouted, beside himself with exasperation and foreboding. "God-damn 
it, can we have no peace even when I go away!" he cried bitterly and 
illogically. "Always these damned gloomy hints and revelations this 
Pentland spooky stuff," he yelled "this damned I-could-if-I-wanted-to- 
tell-you air of mystery, horror, and damnation!" he shouted incoherently. 
"Who cares? What does it matter?" he cried, adding desperately, "I 
don't want to hear about it No one cares." 

"Why, child, now, I was only saying " she began hastily and diplo- 

"All right, all right, all right," he muttered. "I don't care " 

"But, as I say, now," she resumed. 

'*l don't care!" he shouted. "Peace, peace, peace, peace., peace," he mut- 


tered in a crazy tone as he turned to his sister. "A moment's peace for all 
of us before we die. A moment of peace, peace, peace." 
, "Why, boy, I'll vow," the mother said in a vexed tone, fixing her re- 
proving glance on him, "what on earth's come over you? You act like a 
regular crazy man. I'll vow you do"." 

"A moment's peace!" he muttered again, thrusting one hand wildly 
through his hair. "I beg and beseech you for a moment's peace before 
we perish!" 

"K, k, k, k, k," the younger woman snickered derisively, as she poked 
him stiffly in the ribs "There's no peace for the weary. It's like that 
river that goes on forever," she said with a faint loose curving of lewd 
humor around the edges of her generous big mouth "Now you see, 
don't you?" she said, looking at him with this lewd and challenging 
look. "You see what it's like now, don't you? . . . You're the lucky 
one! You got away! You're smart enough to go way off somewhere to 
college to Boston Harvard anywhere but you're away from it. 
You get it for a short time when you come home. How do you think / 
stand it?" she said challengingly. "I have to hear it all the time. . . 
Oh, all the time, and all the time, and all the time!" she said with a kind 
of weary desperation. "If they'd only leave me alone for five minutes 
some time I think I'd be able to pull myself together, but it's this way all 
the time and all the time and all the time. You see, don't you?'* 

But now, having finished, in a tone of hoarse and panting exaspera- 
tion, her frenzied protest, she relapsed immediately into a state o 
marked, weary, and dejected resignation. 

"Well, I know, I know," she said in a weary and indifferent voice. 
". . . Forget about it. ... Talking does no good. . . . Just try to make- 
die best of it the little time you're here. ... I used to think something; 
could be done about it ... but I know different now," she muttered,, 
although she would have been unable to explain the logical meaning o 
these incoherent and disjointed phrases. 

"Hah? . . . What say?" the mother now cried sharply, darting her 
glances from one to another with the quick, startled, curiously puzzled! 
intentness of an animal or a bird. "What say?" she cried sharply again,, 
as no one answered. "I thought " 

But fortunately, at this moment, this strange and disturbing flash in 
which had been revealed the blind and tangled purposes, the powerful 
and obscure impulses, the tormented nerves, the whole tragic perplexity 
of soul which was of the very fabric of their lives, was interrupted by a* 


commotion in one of the groups upon the platform, and by a great guf- 
faw of laughter which instantly roused these three people from this 
painful and perplexing scene, and directed their startled attention to the 
place from which the laughter came. 

And now again they heard the great guffaw a solid "Haw! Haw! 
Haw!" which was full of such an infectious exuberance of animal good- 
nature that other people on the platform began to smile instinctively, 
and to look affectionately towards the owner of the laugh. 

Already, at the sound of the laugh, the young woman had forgotten 
the weary and dejected resignation of the moment before, and with 
an absent and yet eager look of curiosity in her eyes, she was staring 
towards the group from which the laugh had come, and herself now 
laughing absently, she was stroking her big chin in a gesture of medita- 
tive curiosity, saying: 

"Hah! Hah! Hah! . . . That's George Pentland You can tell 

him anywhere by his laugh." 

"Why, yes," the mother was saying briskly, with satisfaction. "That's 
George all right. I'd know him in the dark the minute that I heard that 
laugh. And say, what about it ? He's always had it why, ever since he 
was a kid-boy and was going around with Steve. . . . Oh, he'd come 
right out with it anywhere, you know, in Sunday school, church, or 
while the preacher was sayin' prayers before collection that big loud 
laugh, you know, that you could hear, from here to yonder, as the sayin 9 
goes. . . . Now I don't know where it comes from none of the others 
ever had it in our family; now we all liked to laugh well enough, but I 
never heard no such laugh as that from any of 'em there's one thing 
sure, Will Pentland never laughed like that in his life Oh, Pett, you 
know! Pett!" a scornful and somewhat malicious look appeared on the 
woman's face as she referred to her brother's wife in that whining and 
affected tone with which women imitate the speech of other women 
whom they do not like "Pett got so mad at him one time when he 
laughed right out in church that she was goin' to take the child right 
home an' whip him. Told me, says to me, you know 'Oh, I could 
wring his neck! He'll disgrace us all,' she says, 'unless I cure him of it,' 
says, 'He burst right out in that great roar of his while Doctor Baines 
was sayin' his prayers this morning until you couldn't hear a word the 
preacher said.' Said, 'I was so mortified to think he could do a thing like 
that that I'd a-beat the blood right out of him if I'd had my buggy whip/ 
says, 'I don't know where it comes from' oh, sneerin'-like, you know," 


the woman said, imitating the other woman's voice with a sneering and 
viperous dislike " 'I don't know where it comes from unless it's some of 
that common Pentland blood comin' out in him' 'Now you listen to 
me,' I says; oh, I looked her in the eye, you know" here the woman 
looked at her daughter with the straight steady stare of her worn brown 
eyes, illustrating her speech with the loose and powerful gesture of the 
half -clasped finger-pointing hand "'you listen to me. I don't know 
where that child gets his laugh,' I says, 'but you can bet your bottom dol- 
lar that he never got it from his father or any other Pentland that I 
ever heard of for none of them ever laughed that way Will, or Jim, .or 
Sam, or George, or Ed, or Father, 6r even Uncle Bacchus,' I said 'no, 
nor old Bill Pentland either, who was that child's great-grandfather for 
I've seen an' heard 'em all,' I says. 'And as for this common Pentland 
blood you speak of, Pett' oh, I guess I talked to her pretty straight, you 
know," she said with a little bitter smile, and the short, powerful, and 
convulsive tremor of her strong pursed lips " 'as for that common Pent- 
land blood you speak of, Pett,' I says, 'I never heard of that either for 
we stood high in the community' I says, 'and we all felt that Will was 
lowerin' himself when he married a Creasman!' " 

"Oh, you didn't say that, Mama, surely not," the young woman said 
with a hoarse, protesting, and yet abstracted laugh, continuing to survey 
the people on the platform with a bemused and meditative curiosity, and 
stroking her big chin thoughtfully as she looked at them, pausing from 
time to time to grin in a comical and rather formal manner, bow gra- 
ciously, and murmur: 

"How-do-you-do? ah-hah? How-do-you-do, Mrs. Willis?" 

"Haw! Haw! Haw!" Again the great laugh of empty animal good 
nature burst out across the station platform, and this time George Pent- 
land turned from the group of which he was a member and looked 
vacantly around him, his teeth bared with savage joy, as, with two brown 
fingers of his strong left hand, he dug vigorously into the muscular 
surface of his hard thigh. It was an animal reflex, instinctive and uncon- 
scious, habitual to him in moments of strong mirth. 

He was a powerful and handsome young man in his early thirties, with 
coal-black hair, a strong thick neck, powerful shoulders, and the bull 
vitality of the athlete. He had a red, sensual, curiously animal and pas- 
sionate face, and when he laughed his great guffaw, his red lips were 
bared over two rows of teeth that were white and regular and solid 
as ivory. 



But now, the paroxysm of that savage and mindless laughter having 
jtft him, George Pentland had suddenly espied the mother and her chil- 
dren, waved to them in genial greeting, and excusing himself from his 
companions a group of young men and women who wore the sporting 
look and costume of "the country club crowd" he was walking towards 
his kinsmen at an indolent swinging stride, pausing to acknowledge 
heartily the greetings of people on every side, with whom he was obvi- 
ously a great favorite. 

As he approached, he bared his strong white teeth again in greeting, 
and in a drawling, rich-fibred voice, which had unmistakably the Pent- 
land quality of sensual fulness, humor, and assurance, and a subtle but 
gloating note of pleased self-satisfaction, he said : 

"Hello, Aunt Eliza, how are you? Hello, Helen how are you, 
Hugh?" he said in his high, somewhat accusing, but very strong and 
masculine voice, putting his big hand in an easy affectionate way on 
Barton's arm. "Where the hell you been keepin' yourself anyway?" he 
said accusingly. "Why don't some of you folks come over to see us some- 
time? Ella was askin' about you all the other day wanted to know why 
Helen didn't come around more often." 

"Well, George, I tell you how it is," the young woman said with an 
air of great sincerity and earnestness. "Hugh and I have intended to 
come over a hundred times, but life has been just one damned thing 
after another all summer long. If I could only have a moment's peace 
if I could only get away by myself for a moment if they would only 
leave me alone for an hour at a time, I think I could get myself together 
again do you know what I mean, George?" she said hoarsely and 
eagerly, trying to enlist him in her sympathetic confidence "If they'd 
only do something for themselves once in a while but they all come to 
me when anything goes wrong they never let me have a moment's 
peace until at times I think I'm going crazy I get queer funny, you 
know," she said vaguely and incoherently. "I don't know whether some- 
thing happened Tuesday or last week or if I just imagined it." And for 
a moment her big gaunt face had the dull strained look of hysteria. 

"The strain on her has been very great this summer," said Barton in 
a deep and grave tone. "It's it's," he paused carefully, deeply, searching 
for a word, and looked down as he flicked an ash from his long cigar, 
"it's been too much for her. Everything's on her shoulders," he con- 
cluded in his deep grave voice. 

"My God, George, what is it ?" she said quietly and simply, in the tone 


of one begging for enlightenment. "Is it going to be this way all our 
lives ? Is there never going to be any peace or happiness for us ? Does it 
always have to be this way? Now I want to ask you is there nothing 
in the world but trouble?" 

"Trouble!" he said derisively. "Why, I've had more trouble than any 
one of you ever heard of. ... I've had enough to kill a dozen people 
. . . but when I saw it wasn't goin' to kill me, I quit worryin'. ... So 
you do the same thing," he advised heartily. "Hell, don't worry, Helen! 
... It never got you anywhere. . . . You'll be all right," he said. "You 
got nothin' to worry over. You don't know what trouble is." 

"Oh, -I'd be all right, George I think I could stand anything all the 
rest of it if it wasn't for Papa. . . . I'm almost crazy from worrying 
about him this summer. There were three times there when I knew he 
was gone. . . . And I honestly believe I pulled him back each time by 
main strength and determination do you know what I mean ?" she said 
hoarsely and eagerly "I was just determined not to let him go. If his 
heart had stopped beating I believe I could have done something to make 
it start again I'd have stood over him and blown my breath into him 
got my blood into him shook him," she said with a powerful, nervous 
movement of her big hands "anything just to keep him alive." 

"She's she's saved his life time after time," said Barton slowly, 
flicking his cigar ash carefully away, and looking down deeply, searching 
for a word. 

"He'd he'dhave been a dead man long ago if it hadn't been for 

"Yeah I know she has," George Pentland drawled agreeably. '1 
know you've sure stuck by Uncle Will I guess he knows it, too." 

"It's not that I mind it, George you know what I mean?" she said 
eagerly. "Good heavens! I believe I could give away a dozen lives if I 
thought it was going to save his life! . . . But it's the strain of it. ... 
Month after month . . . year after year . . . lying awake at night won- 
dering if he's all right over there in that back room in Mama's house- 
wondering if he's keeping warm in that old cold house " 

"Why, no, child," the older woman said hastily. "I kept a good fire 
burnin* in that room all last winter that was the warmest room in the 
whole place there wasn't a warmer " 

But immediately she was engulfed, swept aside, obliterated in the 
flood-tide of the other's speech. 

"Wondering if he's sick or needs me if he's begun to bleed again 


oh! George, it makes me sick to think about it that poor old man left 
there all alone, rotting away with that awful cancer, with that horrible 
smell about him all the time everything he wears gets simply stiff with 
that rotten corrupt matter Do you know what it is to wait, wait, wait, 
year after year, and year after year, never knowing when he's going to die, 
to have him hang on by a thread until it seems you've lived forever that 
there'll never be an end that you'll never have a chance to live your own 
life to have a moment's peace or rest or happiness yourself? My God, 
does it always have to be this way? . . . Can I never have a moment's 
happiness? . . . Must they always come to me? Does everything have 
to be put on my shoulders? . . . Will you tell me that?" Her voice had 
risen to a note of frenzied despair. She was glaring at her cousin with a 
look of desperate and frantic entreaty, her whole gaunt figure tense and 
strained with the stress of her hysteria. 

"That's that's the trouble now," said Barton, looking down and 
Searching for the word. "She's . . . She's . . . made the goat for every 
one. . . . She . . . she has to do it all. . . . That's . . . that's the thing 
that's got her down." 

"Not that I mind if it will do any good. . . . Good heavens, Papa's 
life means more to me than anything on earth. ... I'd keep him alive 
at any cost as long as there was a breath left in him. . . . But it's the 
strain of it, the strain of it to wait, to wait year after year, to feel it 
hanging over you all the time, never to know when he will die always 
the strain, the strain do you see what I mean, George?" she said 
hoarsely, eagerly, and pleadingly. "You see, don't you?" 

"I sure do, Helen," he said sympathetically, digging at his thigh, and 
with a swift, cat-like grimace of his features. "I know it's been mighty 
tough on you. . . . How is Uncle Will now?" he said. "Is he any 
better?" . 

"Why, yes," the mother was saying, "he seemed to improve " but she 
was cut off immediately. 

"Oh, yes," the daughter said in a tone of weary dejection. "He pulled 
out of this last spell and got well enough to make the trip to Baltimore 
we sent him back a week ago to take another course of treatments. . . . 
But it does no real good, George. . . . They can't cure him. . . . We 
know that now. . . . They've told us that. ... It only prolongs the agony. 
. . . They help him for a little while and then it all begins again. . . . 
Poor old man!" she said, and her eyes were wet. "I'd give everything I 
have my own blood, my own life if it would do him any good but, 


George, he's gone!" she said desperately. "Can't you understand that? 
. . . They can't save him! . . . Nothing can save him! . . . Papa's a 
dead man now!" 

George looked gravely sympathetic for a moment, winced swiftly, 
dug hard fingers in his thigh, and then said: 

"Who went to Baltimore with him?" 

"Why, Luke's up there," the mother said. "We had a letter from him 
yesterday said Mr. Gant looks much better already eats well, you 
know, has a good appetite and Luke says he's in good spirits. Now * 

"Oh, Mama, for heaven's sake!" the daughter cried. "What's the use 
of talking that way? . . . He's not getting any better. . . . Papa's a sick 
man dying good God! Can no one ever get that into their heads!" 
she burst out furiously. "Am / the only one that realizes how sick he is?" 

"No, now I was only sayin'," the mother began hastily "Well, as I 
say, then," she went on, "Luke's up there with him and Gene's on his 
way there now he's goin' to stop off there tomorrow on his way up 
north to school." 

"Gene!" cried George Pentland in a high, hearty, bantering tone, turn- 
ing to address the boy directly for the first time. "What's all this I hear 
about you, son?" He clasped his muscular hand around the boy's arm in 
a friendly but powerful grip. "Ain't one college enough for you, boy?" 
he drawled, becoming deliberately ungrammatical and speaking good- 
naturedly but with a trace of the mockery which the wastrel and ne'er- 
do-well sometimes feels towards people who have had the energy and 
application required for steady or concentrated effort. "Are you one of 
those fellers who needs two or three colleges to hold him down?" 

The boy flushed, grinned uncertainly, and said nothing. 

"Why, son," drawled George in his hearty, friendly and yet bantering 
tone, in which a note of malice was evident, "you'll be gettin' so educated 
an* high brow here before long that you won't be able to talk to the rest 
of us at all. . . . You'll be floatin' around there so far up in the clouds 
that you won't even see a roughneck like me, much less talk to him" 
As he went on with this kind of sarcasm, his speech had become almost 
deliberately illiterate, as if trying to emphasize the superior virtue of the 
rough, hearty, home-grown fellow in comparison with the bookish 

" Where's he goin' to this time, Aunt Eliza?" he said, turning to hei 
<juestioningly, but still holding the boy's arm in his strong grip, 
" Where's he headin' for now?" 


"Why," she said, stroking her pursed serious mouth with a slightly 
puzzled movement, "he says he's goin' to Harvard. I reckon," she said, 
in the same puzzled tone, "it's all right I guess he knows what he's 
about. Says he's made up his mind to go I told him," she said, and 
shook her head again, "that I'd send him for a year if he wanted to try 
it an* then he'll have to get out an' shift for himself. We'll see," she 
said. "I reckon it's all right." 

"Harvard, eh?" said George Pentland. "Boy, you are flyin* high! . . . 
What you goin' to do up there?" 
, ,The boy, furiously red of face, squirmed, and finally stammered: 

"'Why ... I ... guess ... I guess I'll do some studying!" 

"You guess you will!" roared George. "You'd damn well better do 
some studying I bet your mother'll take it out of your hide if she finds 
you loafin' on her money." 

"Why, yes," the mother said, nodding seriously, "I told him it was up 
to him to make the most of this " 

"Harvard, eh!" George Pentland said again, slowly looking his cousin 
ever from head to foot. "Son, you're flyin' high, you are! ... Now 
don't fly so high you never get back to earth again! . . . You know the 
rest of us who didn't go to Harvard still have to walk around upon the 
ground down here," he said. "So don't fly too high or we may not even 
be able to see you!" 

"George! George!" said the young woman in a low tone, holding one 
hand to her mouth, and bending over to whisper loudly as she looked at 
her young brother. "Do you think any one could fly very high with a 
pair of feet like that?" 

George Pentland looked at the boy's big feet for a moment, shaking 
his head slowly in much wonderment. 

"Hell, no!" he said at length. "He'd never get off the ground! . . . 
But if you cut 'em off," he said, "he'd go right up like a balloon, wouldn't 
he? Haw! Hawf Haw! Haw!" The great guffaw burst from him, and 
grinning with his solid teeth, he dug blindly at his thigh. 

"Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi," the sister jeered, seeing the boy's flushed and angry 
face and prodding him derisively in the ribs "This is our Harvard boy! 

"Don't let 'em kid you, son," said George now in an amiable and 
friendly manner. "Good luck to you! Gi^:e *em hell when you get up 
there! . . . You're the only one of us who ever had guts enough to gc 
through college, and we're proud of you! . . . Tell Uncle Bascom and 


Aunt Louise and all the rest of 'em hello for me when you get to 
Boston. . . . And remember me to your father and Luke when you get 
to Baltimore. . . . Good-bye, 'Gene I've got to leave you now. Good 
luck, son," and with a friendly grip of his powerful hand he turned to 
go. "You folks come over sometime all of you," he said in parting. 
"We'd like to see you." And he went away. 

At this moment, all up and down the platform, people had turned to 
listen to the deep excited voice of a young man who was saying in a 
staccato tone of astounded discovery: 

" You don't mean it! . . . Youy#/<?arshedid! . . . And you were there 
and saw it with your own eyes! , . . Well, if that don't beat all I ever 
heard of! ... I'll be damned!" after which ejaculation, with an as- 
tounded falsetto laugh, he looked about him in an abstracted and un- 
seeing manner, thrust one hand quickly and nervously into his trouser's 
pocket in such a way that his fine brown coat came back, and the large 
diamond-shaped pin of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity was revealed, 
and at the same time passing one thin nervous hand repeatedly over the 
lank brown hair that covered his small and well-shaped head, and still 
muttering in tones of stupefied disbelief "Lord! Lord! . . . What do 
you know about that?" suddenly espied the woman and her two chil- 
dren at the other end of the platform, and without a moment's pause, 
turned on his heel, and walked towards them, at the same time mutter- 
ing to his astonished friends: 

"Wait a minute! . . . Some one over here I've got to speak to! ... 
Back in a minute!" 

He. approached the mother and her children rapidly, at his stiff, prim 
and somewhat lunging stride, his thin face fixed eagerly upon them, 
bearing towards them with a driving intensity of purpose as if the whole 
interest and energy of his life was focussed on them, as if some matter 
of the most vital consequence depended on his reaching them as soon as 
possible. Arrived, he immediately began to address the other youth 
without a word of greeting or explanation, bursting out with the sudden 
fragmentary explosiveness that was part of him : 

"Are you taking this train, too? . . . Are you going today ? . . . Well, 
what did you decide to do?" he demanded mysteriously in an accusing 
and challenging fashion. "Have you made up your mind yet? . . ." 

"Pett Barnes says you've decided on Harvard. Is that it?" 

"Yes, it is." 

"Lord, Lord!" said the youth, laughing his falsetto laugh again, "I 


don't see how you can! . . . You'd better come on with me. . . . What 
ever got into your head to do a thing like that?" he said in a challenging 
tone. "Why do you want to go to a place like that?" 

"Hah? What say?" The mother who had been looking from one 
to the other of the two boys with the quick and startled attentiveness 
of an animal, now broke in : 

"You know each other. . . . Hah? . . . You're taking this train, too, 
you say?" she said sharply. 

"Ah-hah-hah!" the young man laughed abruptly, nervously; grinned, 
made a quick stifJ little bow, and said with nervous engaging respectful- 
ne*ss: "Yes, Ma'am! . . . Ah-hah-hah! . . . How d'ye do! . . . How 
d'ye do, Mrs. Gant?" He shook hands with her quickly, still laughing 
his broken and nervous "ah-hah-hah" "How d'ye do," he said, grin- 
ning nervously at the younger woman and at Barton. "Ah-hah-hah! 
How d'ye do!" 

The older woman still holding his hand in her rough worn clasp 
looked up at him a moment calmly, her lips puckered in tranquil medi- 

"Now," she said quietly, in the tone of a person who refuses to admit 
failure, "I know you. I know your face. Just give me a moment and I'll 
call you by your name." 

The young man grinned quickly, nervously, and then said respectfully 
in his staccato speech : 

"Yes, Ma'am. . . . Ah-hah-hah. . . . Robert Weaver." 

"Ah~h, that's sol" she cried, and shook his hand with sudden warmth. 
"You're Robert Weaver's boy, of course." 

"Ah-hah-hah!" said Robert, with his quick nervous laugh. "Yes, 
Ma'am. . . . That's right. . . . Ah-hah-hah. . . . Gene and I went to 
school together. We were in the same class at the University." 

"Why, of course!" she cried in a tone of complete enlightenment, and 
then went on in a rather vexed manner, "I'll vow I I knew you all along! 
I knew that I'd seen you just as soon as I saw your face! Your name 
just slipped my mind a moment and then, of course, it all flashed over 
me. . . . You're Robert Weaver's boy! . . . And you are," she still held 
his hand in her strong, motherly and friendly clasp, and looking at him 
with a little sly smile hovering about the corners of her mouth, she was 
silent a moment, regarding him quizzically "now, boy," she said 
quietly, "you may think I've got a pretty poor memory for names and 
laces but I want to tell you something that may surprise you. ... I 


know more about you than you think I do. Now," she said, "I'm going 
to tell you something and you can tell me if I'm right." 

"Ah-hah-hah!" said Robert respectfully. "Yes, Ma'am." 

"You were born," she went on slowly and. deliberately, "on Septenv 
her 2nd, 1898, and you are just two years and one month and one day 
older than this boy here " she nodded to her own son. "Now you can 
tell me if I'm right or wrong." 

"Ah-hah-hah!" said Robert. "Yes, Ma'am. . . . That's right. . . . 
You're absolutely right," he cried, and then in an astounded and admir- 
ing tone, he said: "Well, I'll declare. ... If that don't beat all! . . . 
How on earth did you ever remember it!" he cried in an astonished 
tone that obviously was very gratifying to her vanity. 

"Well, now, I'll tell you," she said with a little complacent smile 
"I'll tell you how I know. ... I remember the day you were born, boy 
because it was on that very day that one of my own children my son, 
Luke was allowed to get up out of bed after havin' typhoid fever. . . . 
That very day, sir, when Mr. Gant came home to dinner, he said Well, 
I was just talking to Robert Weaver on the street and everything's all 
right. His wife gave birth to a baby boy this morning and he says she's 
out of danger.' And I know I said to him, Well, then, it's been a lucky 
day for both of us. McGuire was here this morning and he said Luke 
is now well enough to be up and about. He's out of danger.' And I 
reckon," she went on quietly, "that's why the date made such an im- 
pression on me of course, Luke had been awfully sick," she said 
gravely, and shook her head, "we thought he was goin' to die more than 
once so when the doctor came and told me he was out of danger 
well, it was a day of rejoicin' for me, sure enough. But that's how I 
know September 2nd, 1898 that's when it was, all right, the very day 
when you were born." 

"Ah-hah-hah!" said Robert. "That is certainly right Well, if 

that don't beat all!" he cried with his astounded and engaging air of sur- 
prise. "The most remarkable thing I ever heard of!" he said solemnly. 

"So the next time you see your father," the woman said, with the 
tranquil satisfaction of omniscience, "you tell him that you met Eliza 
Pentland he'll know who / am, boy I can assure you for we were 
born and brought up within five miles from each other and you can 
tell him that she knew you right away, and even told you to the hour 
and minute the day when you were born! . . . You tell him that," she 


"Yes, Ma'am!" said Robert respectfully, "I certainly will! . . . I'll 
tell him! . . . That is certainly a remarkable thing. . . . Ah-hah-hahJ 
. . . Beats all I ever heard of! ... Ah-hah-hah," he kept bowing and 
smiling to the young woman and her husband, and muttering "ah-hah- 
hah! . . . Pleased to have met you. . . . Got to go now: some one over 
here I've got to see ... but I'll certainly tell him . . . ah-hah-hah. . . . 
Gene, I'll see you on the train. . . . Good-bye. . . . Good-bye. . . . 
Glad to have met you all . . . Ah-hah-hah. . . . Certainly a remark- 
able thing. . . . Good-bye! "and turning abruptly, he left them, walking 
rapidly along at his stiff, prim, curiously lunging stride. 

The younger woman looked after the boy's tall form as he departed, 
stroking her chin in a reflective and abstracted manner: 

"So that's Judge Robert Weaver's son, is it? ... Well," she went on, 
nodding her head vigorously in a movement of affirmation. "He's all 
right. . . . He's got good manners. . . . He looks and acts like a gen- 
tleman. . . . You can see he's had a good bringing up. ... I like him!" 
she declared positively again. 

"Why, yes," said the mother, who had been following the tall re- 
treating form with a reflective look, her hands loose-folded at her 
waist "Why, yes," she continued, nodding her head in a thought- 
ful and conceding manner that was a little comical in its implications 
"He's a good-looking all-right sort of a boy. . . . And he certainly 
seems to be intelligent enough." She was silent for a moment, pursing 
her lips thoughtfully and then concluded with a little nod "Well, now, 
the boy may be all right. . . . I'm not saying that he isn't. . . . He may 
turn out all right, after all." 

"All right?" her daughter said, frowning a little and showing a little 
annoyance, but with a faint lewd grin around the corners of her mouth 
"what do you mean by all right, Mama ? Why, of course he's all right. 
. . . What makes you think he's not?" 

The other woman was silent for another moment: when she spoke 
again, her manner was tinged with portent, and she turned and looked 
at her daughter a moment in a sudden, straight and deadly fashion 
before she spoke: 

"Now, child," she said, "I'm going to tell you: perhaps everything will 
turn out all right for that boy I hope it does but " 

"Oh, my God!" the younger woman laughed hoarsely but with a 
shade of anger, and turning, prodded her brother stiffly in the ribs, 
"Now we'll get it!" she sniggered, prodding him, "k-k-k-k-k! What dc 


you call it?'* she said with a lewd frowning grin that was indescribably 
comic in its evocations of coarse humor "the low down? the dirt? 
Did you ever know it to fail? The moment that you meet any one, and 
up comes the family corpse." 

" Well, now, child, I'm not saying anything against the boy perhaps 
it won't touch him maybe he'll be the one to escape to turn out all 
right-but " 

"Oh, my God!" the younger woman groaned, rolling her eyes around 
in a comical and imploring fashion. "Here it comes." 

"You are too young to know about it yourself," the other went on 
gravely "you belong to another generation you don't know about ic 
but I do" She paused again, shook her pursed lips with a convulsive 
pucker of distaste, and then looking at her daughter again in her straight 
and deadly fashion, said slowly, with a powerful movement of the hand: 

"There's been insanity in that boy's family for generations back!" 

"Oh, my God! I knew it!" the other groaned. 

"Yes, sir!" the mother said implacably "and two of his aunts Robert 
Weaver's own sisters died raving maniacs and Robert Weaver's mother 
herself was insane for the last twenty years of her life up to the hour o 
her death and I've heard tell that it went back " 

"Well, deliver me," the younger woman checked her, frowning, speak- 
ing almost sullenly. "I don't want to hear any more about it. ... It's a 
mighty funny thing that they all seem to get along now better than 
we do ... so let's let bygones be bygones . . . don't dig up the past." 

Turning to her brother with a little frowning smile, she said wearily: 
"Did you ever know it to fail? . . . They know it all, don't they?" she 
said mysteriously. "The minute you meet any one you like, they spill 
the dirt. . . . Well, I don't care," she muttered. "You stick to people like 
that. . . . He looks like a nice boy and " with an impressed look over 
towards Robert's friends, she concluded, "he goes with a nice crowd. 
. . . You stick to that kind of people. I'm all for him." 

Now the mother was talking again: the boy could see her powerful 
and delicate mouth convolving with astonishing rapidity in a series of 
pursed thoughtful lips, tremulous smiles, bantering and quizzical jocosi- 
ties, old sorrow and memory, quiet gravity, the swift easy fluency of tears 
that the coming of a train always induced in her, thoughtful seriousness, 
and sudden hopeful speculation. 

"Well, boy," she was now saying gravely, "you are going as the savin' 
here she shook her head slightly, strongly, rapidly with powerful 


puckered lips, and instantly her weak worn eyes of brown were wet with 
tears " as the sayin' goes to a strange land a stranger among strange 
people. It may be a long long time," she whispered in an old husky 
tone, her eyes tear-wet as she shook her head mysteriously with a brave 
pathetic smile that suddenly filled the boy with rending pity, anguish of 
the soul, and a choking sense of exasperation and of woman's unfairness 
" I hope we are all here when you come back again. ... I hope you 
find us all alive. . . ." She smiled bravely, mysteriously, tearfully. "You 
never know," she whispered, "you never know." 

4< Mama," he could hear his voice sound hoarsely and remotely in his 
throat, choked with anguish and exasperation at her easy fluency of sor- 
row, " Mama in Christ's name! Why do you have to act like this 
every time some one goes away! ... I beg of you, for God's sake, not 
to do it!" 

"Oh, stop it! Stop it!" his sister said in a rough, peremptory and yet 
kindly tone to the mother, her eyes grave and troubled, but with a faint 
rough smile about the edges of her generous mouth. "He's not going 
away forever! Why, good heavens, you act as if some one is dead! Bos- 
ton's not so far away you'll never see him again! The trains are running 
every day, you know. . . . Besides," she said abruptly and with an assur- 
ance that infuriated the boy, "he's not going today, anyway. Why, you 
haven't any intention of going today, you know you haven't," she said to 
him. "He's been fooling you all along," she now said, turning to the 
mother with an air of maddening assurance. "He has no idea of taking 
that train. He's going to wait over until tomorrow. I've known it all 

The boy went stamping away from them up the platform, and then 
came stamping back at them while the other people on the platform 
grinned and stared. 

"Helen, in God's name!" he croaked frantically. "Why do you start 
that when I'm all packed up and waiting here at the God-damned sta- 
tion for the train! You J(now I'm going away, today!" he yelled, with a 
sudden sick desperate terror in his heart as he thought that something 
might now come in the way of going. "You %now I am! Why did we 
come here? What in Christ's name are we waiting for if you don'r think 
I'm going?" 

The young woman laughed her high, husky laugh which was almost 
deliberately irritating and derisive "Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!" and 
prodded him in the ribs with her large stiff fingers. Then, almost wearily, 


she turned away, plucking at her large chin absently, and said: "Well, 
have it your own way! It's your own funeral! If you're determined to go 
today, no one can stop you. But I don't see why you can't just as well 
wait over till tomorrow." 

"Why, yes!" the mother now said briskly and confidently. "That's 
exactly what I'd do if I were you! . . . Now, it's not going to do a bit of 
harm to any one if you're a day or so late in gettin' there. . . . Now I've 
never been there myself," she went on in her tone of tranquil sarcasm, 
"but I've always heard that Harvard University was a good big sort of 
place and I'll bet you'll find," the mother now said gravely, with a 
strong slow nod of conviction "I'll bet you'll find that it's right there 
where it always was when you get there. I'll bet you find they haven't 
moved a foot," she said, "and let me tell you something, boy," she now 
continued, looking at him almost sternly, but with the ghost of a smile 
about her powerful and delicate mouth " now I haven't had your edu- 
cation and I reckon I don't know as much about universities as you do 
but I've never heard of one yet that would run a feller away for bein' a 
day late as long as he's got money enough^to pay his tuition. . . . Now 
you'll find 'em waitin' for you when you get there and you'll get in," 
she said slowly and powerfully. "You don't have to worry about that 
they'll be glad to see you, and they'll take you in a hurry when they see 
you've got the price." 

"Now, Mama," he said in a quiet frenzied tone, "I beg of you, for 
God's sake, please, not to " 

"All right, all right," the mother answered hastily in a placating tone, 
"I was only sayin' " 

"If you will kindly, please, for God's sake " 

"K-k-k-k-k-k!" his sister snickered, poking him in the ribs. 

But now the train was coming. Down the powerful shining tracks a 
half mile away, the huge black snout of the locomotive swung slowly 
round the magnificent bend and flare of the rails that went into the rail- 
way yards of Altamont two miles away, and with short explosive 
thunders of its squat funnel came barging slowly forward. Across the 
golden pollenated haze of the warm autumnal afternoon they watched 
it with numb lips and an empty hollowness of fear, delight, and sor- 
row in their hearts. 

And from the sensual terror, the ecstatic tension of that train's ap- 
proach, all things before, around, about the boy came to instant life, to 
such sensuous and intolerable poignancy of life as a doomed man might 


feel who looks upon the world for the last time from the platform of the 
scaffold where he is to die. He could feel, taste, smell, and see everything 
with an instant still intensity, the animate fixation of a vision seen in- 
stantly, fixed forever in the mind of him who sees it, and sense the 
clumped dusty autumn masses of the trees that bordered the tracks upon 
the left, and smell the thick exciting hot tarred caulking of the tracks, 
the dry warmth and good worn wooden smell of the powerful railway 
ties, and see the dull rusty red, the gaping emptiness and joy of a freight 
car, its rough floor whitened with soft siltings of thick flour, drawn in 
upon a spur of rusty track behind a warehouse of raw concrete blocks, 
and see with sudden desolation, the warehouse flung down rawly, newly, 
there among the hot, humid, spermy, nameless, thick-leaved field-growth 
of the South. 

Then the locomotive drew in upon them, loomed enormously above 
them, and slowly swept by them with a terrific drive of eight-locked 
pistoned wheels, all higher than their heads, a savage furnace-flare of 
heat, a hard hose-thick hiss of steam, a moment's vision of a lean old 
head, an old gloved hand of cunning on the throttle, a glint of demon 
hawk-eyes fixed forever on the rails, a huge tangle of gauges, levers, 
valves, and throttles, and the goggled blackened face of the fireman, lit 
by an intermittent hell of flame, as he bent and swayed with rhythmic 
swing of laden shovel at his furnace doors. 

The locomotive passed above them, darkening the sunlight from their 
faces, engulfing them at once and filling them with terror, drawing the 
souls out through their mouths with the God-head of its instant ab- 
soluteness, and leaving them there, emptied, frightened, fixed forever, a 
cluster of huddled figures, a bough of small white staring faces, upturned, 
silent, and submissive, small, lonely, and afraid. 

Then as the heavy rust-black coaches rumbled past, and the wheels 
ground slowly to a halt, the boy could see his mother's white stunned 
face beside him, the naked startled innocence of her eyes, and feel her 
rough worn clasp upon his arm, and hear her startled voice, full of ap- 
prehension, terror, and surprise, as she said sharply : 

"Hah? What say? Is this his train? I thought " 

It was his train and it had come to take him to the strange and secret 
heart of the great North that he had never known, but whose austere 
and lonely image, whose frozen heat and glacial fire, and dark stern 
beauty had blazed in his vision since he was a child. For he had dreamed 
*nd hungered for the proud unknown North with that wild ecstasy, that 


intolerable and wordless joy of longing and desire, which only a South- 
erner can feel. With a heart of fire, a brain possessed, a spirit haunted by 
the strange, secret and unvisited magic of the proud North, he had 
always known that some day he should find it his heart's hope and his 
father's country, the lost but unforgotten half of his own soul, and take 
it for his own. 

And now that day had come, and these two images call them rather 
lights and weathers of man's soul of the world-far, lost and lonely 
South, and the fierce, the splendid, strange and secret North were 
swarming like a madness through his blood. And just as he had seen a 
thousand images of the buried and silent South which he had known' aft 
his life, so now he had a vision of the proud fierce North with all its 
shining cities, and its tides of life. He saw the rocky sweetness of its soil 
and its green loveliness, and he knew its numb soft prescience, its entrail- 
stirring ecstasy of coming snow, its smell of harbors and its traffic of 
proud ships. 

He could not utter what he wished to say and yet the wild and power- 
ful music of those two images kept swelling in him and it seemed that 
the passion of their song must burst his heart, explode the tenement of 
bright blood and agony in which they surged, and tear the sinews of 
his life asunder unless he found some means to utter them. 

But no words came. He only knew the image of man's loneliness, a 
feeling of sorrow, desolation, and wild mournful secret joy, longing and 
desire, as sultry, moveless and mysterious in its slow lust as the great 
rivers of the South themselves. And at the same moment that he fej'- 
this wild and mournful sorrow, the slow, hot, secret pulsings of desire, 
and breathed the heavy and mysterious fragrance of the lost South again, 
he felt suddenly and terribly, its wild strange pull, the fatal absoluteness 
of its world-lost resignation. 

Then, with a sudden feeling of release, a realization of the incredible 
escape that now impended for him, he knew that he was waiting for the 
train, and that the great life of the North, the road to freedom, solitude 
and the enchanted promise of the golden cities was now before him. 
Like a dream made real, a magic come to life, he knew that in ano.ther 
hour lie would be speeding world-ward, life-ward, North-ward out of 
the enchanted, time-far hills, out of the dark heart and mournful mystery 
of the South forever. 

And as that overwhelming knowledge came to him, a song of triumph, 
ioy, and victory so savage and unutterable, that he could no longer hold 


it in his heart was torn from his lips in a bestial cry of fury, pain, and 
ecstasy. He struck his arms out in the shining air for loss, for agony, for 
joy. The whole earth reeled about him in a kaleidoscopic blur of shining 
rail, massed heavy greens, and white empetalled faces of the staring 

And suddenly he was standing there among his people on the plat- 
form of the little station. All things and shapes on earth swam back into 
their proper shape again, and he could hear his mother's voice, the 
broken clatter of the telegraph, and see, there on the tracks, the blunt 
black snout, the short hard blasts of steam from its squat funnel, the 
imminent presence, the enormous bigness of the train. 


THE journey from the mountain town of Altamont to the tower- 
masted island of Manhattan is not, as journeys are conceived in America, 
a long one. The distance is somewhat more than 700 miles, the time 
required to make the journey a little more than twenty hours. But so 
relative are the qualities of space and time, and so complex and multiple 
their shifting images, that in the brief passage of this journey one may 
live a life, share instantly in 10,000,000 other ones, and see pass before his 
eyes the infinite panorama of shifting images that make a nation's 

First of all, the physical changes and transitions of the journey are 
strange and wonderful enough. In the afternoon one gets on the train 
and with a sense of disbelief and wonder sees the familiar faces, shapes, 
and structures of his native town recede out of the last fierce clasp of life 
and vision. Then, all through the waning afternoon, the train is toiling 
down around the mountain curves and passes. The great shapes of the 
hills, embrowned and glowing with the molten hues of autumn, are all 
about him: the towering summits, wild and lonely, full of joy and 
strangeness and their haunting premonitions of oncoming winter soar 
above him, the gulches, gorges, gaps, and wild ravines, fall sheer and 
suddenly away with a dizzy terrifying steepness, and all the time the 
great train toils slowly down from the mountain summits with the sinu- 
ous turnings of an enormous snake. And from the very toiling slowness 
of the train, together with the terrific stillness and nearness of the mar- 
vellous hills, a relation is established, an emotion evoked, which it is 


impossible to define, but which, in all its strange and poignant mingling 
of wild sorrow and joy, grief for the world that one is losing, swelling 
triumph at the thought of the strange new world that one will find, is 
instantly familiar, and has been felt by every one. 

The train toils slowly round the mountain grades, the short and power- 
ful blasts of its squat funnel sound harsh and metallic against the sides 
of rocky cuts. One looks out the window and sees cut, bank, and gorge 
slide slowly past, the old rock wet and gleaming with the water of some 
buried mountain spring. The train goes slowly over the perilous and 
dizzy height of a wooden trestle; far below, the traveller can see and hear 
the clean foaming clamors of rock-bright mountain water; beside the 
track, before his little hut, a switchman stands looking at the train with 
the slow wondering gaze of the mountaineer. The little shack in which 
he lives is stuck to the very edge of the track above the steep and perilous 
ravine. His wife, a slattern with a hank of tight drawn hair, a snuff -stick 
in her mouth, and the same gaunt, slow wondering stare her husband 
has, stands in the doorway of the shack, holding a dirty little baby in her 

It is all so strange, so near, so far, so terrible, beautiful, and instantly 
familiar, that it seems to the traveller that he must have known these 
people forever, that he must now stretch forth his hand to them from 
the windows and the rich and sumptuous luxury of the pullman car, that 
he must speak to them. And it seems to him that all the strange and 
bitter miracle of life how, why, or in what way, he does not know is 
in that instant greeting and farewell; for once seen, and lost the moment 
that he sees it, it is his forever and he can never forget it. And then the 
slow toiling train has passed these lives and faces and is gone, and there 
is something in his heart he cannot say. 

At length the train has breached the last great wall of the soaring 
ranges, has made its slow and sinuous descent around the powerful bends 
and cork-screws of the shining rails (which now he sees above him seven 
times) and towards dark, the lowland country has been reached. The 
sun goes down behind the train a tremendous globe of orange and pollen, 
the soaring ranges melt swiftly into shapes of smoky and enchanted 
purple, night comes great-starred and velvet-breasted night and now 
the train takes up its level pounding rhythm across the piedmont swel? 
and convolution of the mighty State. 

Towards nine o'clock at night there is a pause to switch cars and 
change engines at a junction town. The traveller, with the same feeling 


of wild unrest, wonder, nameless excitement and wordless expectancy, 
leaves the train, walks back and forth upon the platform, rushes into 
the little station lunch room or out into the streets to buy cigarettes, a 
sandwich really just to feel this moment's contact with another town. 
He sees vast flares and steamings of gigantic locomotives on the rails, the 
seamed, blackened, lonely faces of the engineers in the cabs of their great 
engines, and a little later he is rushing again across the rude, mysterious 
visage of the powerful, dark, and lonely earth of old Catawba. 

Toward midnight there is another pause at a larger town the last 
stop in Catawba again the feeling of wild unrest and nameless joy 
and sorrow. The traveller gets out, walks up and down the platform, 
sees the vast slow flare and steaming of the mighty engine, rushes into 
the station, and looks into the faces of all the people passing with the 
same sense of instant familiarity, greeting, and farewell, that lonely, 
strange, and poignantly wordless feeling that Americans know so well. 
Then he is in the pullman again, the last outposts of the town have 
slipped away from him and the great train which all through the after- 
noon has travelled eastward from the mountains half across the mighty 
State, is now for the first time pointed northward, worldward, towards 
the secret borders of Virginia, towards the great world cities of his hope, 
the fable of his childhood legendry, and the wild and secret hunger of 
his heart, his spirit and his life. 

Already the little town from which he came in the great hills, the faces 
of his kinsmen and his friends, their most familiar voices, the shapes of 
things he knew seem far and strange as dreams, lost at the bottom of the 
million-visaged sea-depth of dark time, the strange and bitter miracle 
of life. He cannot think that he has ever lived there in the far lost hills, 
or ever left them, and all his life seems stranger than the dream of time, 
and the great train moves on across the immense and lonely visage of 
America, making its great monotone that is the sound of silence and 
forever. And in the train, and in ten thousand little towns, the sleepers 
sleep upon the earth. 

Then bitter sorrow, loneliness and joy come swelling to his throat 
quenchless hunger rises from the adyts of his life and conquers him, 
and with wild wordless fury horsed upon his life, he comes at length, 
in dark mid-watches of the night, up to the borders of the old earth ot 

Who has seen fury riding in the mountains ? Who has known fury 


striding in the storm ? Who has been mad with fury in his youth, given 
no rest or peace or certitude by fury, driven on across the earth by fury, 
until the great vine of the heart was broke, the sinews wrenched, the 
little tenement of bone, blood, marrow, brain, and feeling in which great 
fury raged, was twisted, wrung, depleted, worn out, and exhausted by 
the fury which it could not lose or put away ? Who has known fury, 
how it came? 

How have we breathed him, drunk him, eaten fury to the core, until 
we have him in us now and cannot lose him anywhere we go ? It is a 
strange and subtle worm that will be forever feeding at our heart. It is 
a madness working in our brain, a hunger growing from the food it 
feeds upon, a devil moving in the conduits of our blood, it is a spirit wild 
and dark and uncontrollable forever swelling in our soul, and it is in the 
saddle now, horsed upon our lives, rowelling the spurs of its insatiate 
desire into our naked and defenseless sides, our owner, master, and the 
mad and cruel tyrant who goads us on forever down the blind and brutal 
tunnel of kaleidoscopic days at the end of which is nothing but the blind 
mouth of the pit and darkness and no more. 

Then, then, will fury leave us, he will cease from those red channels 
of our life he has so often run, another sort of worm will work at that 
great vine, whereat he fed. Then, then, indeed, he must give over, fold 
his camp, retreat; there is no place for madness in a dead man's brain, no 
place for hunger in a dead man's flesh, and in a dead man's heart there is 
a place for no desire. 

At what place of velvet-breasted night long long ago, and in what leafy 
darkened street of mountain summer, hearing the footsteps of approach- 
ing lovers in the night, the man's voice, low, hushed, casual, confiding, 
suddenly the low rich welling of a woman's laughter, tender and sensual 
in the dark, going, receding, fading, and then the million-noted silence 
of the night again ? In what ancient light of fading day in a late summer; 
what wordless passion then of sorrow, joy, and ecstasy was he betrayed 
to fury when it came ? 

Or in the black dark of some forgotten winter's morning, child of 
the storm and brother to the dark, alone and wild and secret in the night 
as he leaned down against the wind's strong wall towards Niggertown, 
blocking his folded papers as he went, and shooting them terrifically in 
the wind's wild blast against the shack-walls of the jungle-sleeping 
blacks, himself alone awake, wild, secret, free and stormy as the wild 
wind's blast, giving it howl for howl and yell for yell, with madness, and 


a demon's savage and exultant joy, up-welling in his throat! Oh, was he 
then, on such a night, betrayed to fury was it then, on such a night, 
that fury came? 

He never knew; it may have been a rock, a stone, a leaf, the moths of 
golden light as warm and moving in a place of magic green, it may have 
been the storm-wind howling in the barren trees, the ancient fading light 
of day in some forgotten summer, the huge unfolding mystery of undu- 
lant, on-coming night. 

Oh, it might have been all this in the April and most lilac darkness of 
some forgotten morning as he saw the clean line of the East cleave into 
morning at the mountain's ridge. It may have been the first light, bird- 
song, an end to labor and the sweet ache and pure fatigue of the lightened 
shoulder as he came home at morning hearing the single lonely hoof, the 
jinking bottles, and the wheel upon the street again, and smelled the 
early morning breakfast smells, the smoking wheat-cakes, and the pun- 
gent sausages, the steaks, biscuits, grits, and fried green apples, and the 
brains and eggs. It may have been the coil of pungent smoke upcurling 
from his father's chimney, the clean sweet gardens and the peach-bloom, 
apples, crinkled lettuce wet with dew, bloom and cherry bloom down 
drifting in their magic snow within his father's orchard, and his father's 
giant figure awake now and astir, and moving in his house! 

Oh, ever to wake at morning knowing he was there! To feel the fire- 
full chimney-throat roar up a-tremble with the blast of his terrific fires, 
to hear the first fire crackling in the kitchen range, to hear the sounds of 
morning in the house, the smells of breakfast and the feeling of security 
never to be changed! Oh, to hear him prowling like a wakened lion be- 
low, the stertorous hoarse frenzy of his furious breath; to hear the omi- 
nous muttering mounting to faint howls as with infuriated relish he 
prepared the roaring invective of the morning's tirade, to hear him mut- 
tering as the coal went rattling out upon the fire, to hear him growling 
as savagely the flame shot up the trembling chimney-throat, to hear 
him muttering back and forth now like a raging beast, finally to hear 
his giant stride racing through the house prepared now, storming to the 
charge, and the well-remembered howl of his awakened fury as spring- 
ing to the door-way of the back-room stairs he flung it open, yelling at 
them to awake. 

Was it in such a way, one time as he awoke, and heard below his 
father's lion-ramp of morning that fury came? He never knew, no 


more than one could weave the great web of his life back through the 
brutal chaos of ten thousand furious days, unwind the great vexed pat- 
tern of his life to silence, peace, and certitude in the magic land of new 
beginnings, no return. 

He never knew if fury had lain dormant all those years, had worked 
secret, silent, like a madness in the blood. But later it would seem to 
him- that fury had first filled his life, exploded, conquered, and pos- 
sessed him, that he first felt it, saw it, knew the dark illimitable mad- 
ness of its power, one night years later on a train across Virginia. 


IT was a little before midnight when the youth entered the smoking 
room of the pullman where, despite the lateness of the hour, several men 
still sat. At just this moment the train had entered the State of Virginia 
although, of course, none of the men who sat there talking knew this. 

It is true that some of them might have known had their interest and 
attention been directed toward this geographic fact, had they been look- 
ing for it. Just at this moment, indeed, as the train, scarcely slackening 
its speed, was running through the last of the Catawba towns, one of 
the men glanced up suddenly from the conversation in which he and 
the others were earnestly engaged, which was exclusively concerned with 
the fascinating, ever mounting prices of their property and the tempting 
profits undoubtedly to be derived from real-estate speculation in their 
native town. He had looked up quickly, casually, and absently, with that 
staggering indifference of prosperous men who have been so far, so often, 
on such splendid trains, that a trip across the continent at night toward 
the terrific city is no longer a grand adventure of their lives, but just a 
thing of custom, need, and even weariness, and who, therefore, rarely 
look out windows any more: 

"What is this?" he said quickly. "Oh, Maysville, probably. Yes, I 
guess this must be Maysville," and had then returned vigorously from 
his brief inspection of the continent of night, a few lights, and a little 
town, to the enticing topic which had for several hours absorbed the 
interests of the group. 

Nor was there any good reason why this traveller who had glanced so 
swiftly and indifferently from the window of the train should feel any 
greater interest than he showed. Certainly the briefest and most casual 


inspection would have convinced the observer that, in Baedeker's cele- 
brated phrase, there was "little here that need detain the tourist." 
What the man saw in the few seconds of his observation was the quiet, 
dusty and sparsely lighted street of a little town in the upper South. The 
street was shaded by large trees and there were some level lawns, more 
trees, and some white frame houses with spacious porches, gables, occa- 
sionally the wooden magnificence of Georgian columns. 

On everything trees, houses, foliage, yards, and street there was a 
curious loneliness of departure and October, an attentive almost mourn- 
ful waiting. And yet this dark and dusty street of the tall trees left 
a haunting, curiously pleasant feeling of strangeness and familiarity. 
One viewed it with a queer sudden ache in the heart, a feeling of friend- 
ship and farewell, and this feeling was probably intensified by the swift 
and powerful movement of the train which seemed to slide past the town 
almost noiselessly, its wheels turning without friction, sound, or vibrance 
on the pressed steel ribbons of the rails, giving to a traveller, and partic- 
ularly to a youth who was going into the secret North for the first time, a 
feeling of illimitable and exultant power, evoking for him the huge 
mystery of the night and darkness, and the image of ten thousand lonely 
little towns like this across the continent. 

Then the train slides by the darkened vacant-looking little station and 
for a moment one has a glimpse of the town's chief square and business 
centre. And as he sees it he is filled again with the same feeling of lone- 
liness, instant familiarity, and departure. The square is one of those 
anomalous, shabby-ornate, inept, and pitifully pretentious places that 
one finds in little towns like these. But once seen, if only for this frac- 
tion of a moment, from the windows of a train, the memory of it will 
haunt one forever after. 

And this haunting and lonely memory is due probably to the combina- 
tion of two things : the ghastly imitation of swarming life and metropol- 
itan gaiety in the scene, and the almost total absence of life itself. The 
impression one gets, in fact, from that brief vision is one of frozen cata' 
leptic silence in a world from which all life has recently been extin- 
guished by some appalling catastrophe. The lights burn, the electric 
signs wink and flash, the place is still horribly intact in all its bleak 
prognathous newness, but all the people are dead, gone, vanished. The 
place is a tomb of frozen silence, as terrifying in its empty bleakness as 
those advertising backdrops one saw formerly in theatres, where the 
splendid buildings, stores, and shops of a great street are painted in the 


richest and most flattering colors, and where there is no sign of life 

So was it here, save that here the illusion of the dead world gained a 
hideous physical reality by its stark, staring, nakedly concrete dimen- 

All this the boy had seen, or rather sensed, in the wink of an eye, a 
moment's vision of a dusty little street, a fleeting glimpse of a silent 
little square, a few hard lights, and then the darkness of the earth again 
these half -splintered glimpses were all the boy could really see in the 
eye-wink that it took the train to pass the town. And yet, all these 
fragmentary things belonged so completely to all the life of little towns 
which he had known, that it was not as if he had seen only a few 
splintered images, but rather as if the whole nocturnal picture of the 
town was instantly whole and living in his mind. 

Beyond the station, parked in a line against the curb is a row of empty 
motor cars, and he knows instantly that they have been left there by the 
patrons of the little moving-picture theatre which explodes out of the 
cataleptic silence of the left-hand side of the square into a blaze of 
hard white and flaming posters which seem to cover the entire facade. 
Even here, no movement of life is visible, but one who has lived and 
known towns like these feels for the first time an emotion of warmth 
and life as he looks at the gaudy, blazing bill-beplastered silence of that 

For suddenly he seems to see the bluish blaze of carbon light that 
comes from the small slit-like vent-hole cut into the wall and can hear 
again one of the loneliest and most haunting of all sounds the rapid 
shuttering sound of the projection camera late at night, a sound lonely, 
hurried, unforgettable, coming out into those cataleptic squares of 
silence in the little towns as if the operator is fairly racing through the 
last performance of the night like a weary and exhausted creature whose 
stale, over-driven life can find no joy in what is giving so much joy to 
others, and who is pressing desperately ahead toward the merciful re- 
wards of food, sleep, and oblivion which are already almost in his grasp. 

And as he remembers this, he also suddenly sees and knows the people 
in the theatre, and in that instant greets them, feels his lonely kin- 
ship with them, with the whole family of the earth, and says farewell. 
Small, dark, lonely, silent, thirsty, and insatiate, the people of the little 
town are gathered there in that one small cell of radiance, warmth, and 
joy. There for a little space they are united by the magic spell the theatre 


casts upon them. They are all dark and silent leaning forward like a 
single mind and congeries of life, and yet they are all separate too. 

Yes, lonely, silent, for a moment beautiful, he knows the people of the 
town are there, lifting the small white petals of their faces, thirsty and 
insatiate, to that magic screen : now they laugh exultantly as their hero 
triumphs, weep quietly as the mother dies, the little boys cheer wildly as 
the rascal gets his due they are all there in darkness, under immense 
immortal skies of time, small nameless creatures in a lost town on the 
mighty continent, and for an instant we have seen them, known them, 
said farewell. 

Around the four sides of the square at even intervals, the new stand- 
ards of the five-bulbed lamps cast down implacably upon those cataleptic 
pavements the cataleptic silence of their hard white light. And this, he 
knows, is called "the Great White Way," of which the town is proud. 
Somehow the ghastly, lifeless silence of that little square is imaged no- 
where else so cruelly as in the harsh, white silence of these lights. For 
they evoke terribly, as nothing else can do, the ghastly vacancy of light 
without life. And poignantly, pitifully, and unutterably their harsh, 
white silence evokes the moth-like hunger of the' American for hard, 
brilliant, blazing incandescence. 

It is as if there may be in his soul the horror of the ancient darkness, 
the terror of the old immortal silences, which will not down and must 
be heard. It is as if he feels again the ancient fear of what? Of the 
wildeoiess, the wet and lidless eye of shame and desolation feeding al- 
ways on unhoused and naked sides. It is as if he fears the brutal revela- 
tion of his loss and loneliness, the furious, irremediable confusion of his 
huge unrest, his desperate and unceasing flight from the immense and 
timeless skies that bend above him, the huge, doorless and unmeasured 
vacancies of distance, on which he lives, on which, as helpless as a leaf 
upon a hurricance, he is driven on forever, and on which he cannot 
pause, which he cannot fence, wall, conquer, make his own. 

Then the train, running always with its smooth, powerful, almost 
noiseless movement, has left the station and the square behind it. The 
last outposts of the town appear and vanish in patterns of small, lonely 
light, and there is nothing but huge and secret night before us, the 
lonely, everlasting earth, and presently Virginia. 

And surely, now, there is little more to be seen. Surely, now, there is 
almost nothing that by day would be worthy of more than a glance from 
those great travellers who have ranged the earth, and known all its wild 


and stormy seas, and seen its rarest glories. And by night, now, there is 
nothing, nothing by night but darkness and a space we call Virginia 
through which the huge projectile of the train is hurtling onward in the 

Field and fold and gulch and hill and hollow, forest and stream and 
bridge and bank and cut, the huge earth, the rude earth, the wild, form- 
less, infinitely various, most familiar, ever haunting earth, the grand and 
casual earth that is so brown, so harsh, so dusty, so familiar, the strange 
and homely earth wrought in our blood, our brain, our heart, the earth 
that can never be forgotten or described, is flowing by us, by us, by us jn 
the night. 

What is it that we know so well and cannot speak ? What is it that we 
want to say and cannot tell ? What is it that keeps swelling in our hearts 
its grand and solemn music, that is aching in our throats, that is pulsing 
. like a strange wild grape through all the conduits of our blood, that 
maddens us with its exultant and intolerable joy and that leaves us 
tongueless, wordless, maddened by our fury to the end ? 

We do not know. All that we know is that we lack a tongue that could 
reveal, a language that could perfectly express the wild joy swelling to 
a music in our heart, the wild pain welling to a strong ache in our throat, 
the wild cry mounting to a madness in our brain, the thing, the word, 
the joy we know so well, and cannot speak! All that we know is that the 
little stations whip by in the night, the straggling little towns whip by 
with all that is casual, rude, familiar, ugly, and unutterable. All that we 
know is that the earth is flowing by us in the darkness, and that this is 
the way the world goes with a field and a wood and a field! And of 
the huge and secret earth all we know is that we feel with all our life its 
texture with our foot upon it. 

All that we know is that having everything we yet hold nothing, that 
feeling the wild song of this great earth up welling in us we have no words 
to give it utterance* All that we know is that here the passionate enigma 
of our lives is so bitterly expressed, the furious hunger that so haunts and 
hurts Americans so desperately felt that being rich, we all are yet so 
poor, that having an incalculable v/ealth we have no way of spending it, 
that feeling an illimitable power we yet have found no way of using it. 

Therefore we hurtle onward in the dark across Virginia, we hurtle 
onward in the darkness down a million roads, we hurtle onward driven 
by our hunger down the blind and brutal tunnel of ten thousand furious 
and kaleidoscopic days, the victims of the cruel impulse of a million 


chance and fleeting moments, without a wall at which to thrust tb? 
shoulder of our strength, a roof to hide us in our nakedness, a place trt 
build on, or a door. 


As the boy entered the smoking compartment, the men who were talk- 
ing together paused, and looked up at him briefly with the intent, curi- 
ous, momentary stare of men interrupted in a conversation. The boy, a 
leggy creature racing into unfledged lengths of shank and arm and 
shoulder, fumbled nervously in his coat pocket for a package of cigarettes 
and then sat down abruptly on the upholstered leather seat beside one of 
the men. 

The boy's manner betrayed that mixture of defiance and diffidence 
which a young man going out into the world for the first time feels in the 
presence of older and more experienced men. And this was the way he 
felt. And for this reason in the sharp and casual stare which the men 
fixed briefly on him there may have been unconsciously something affec- 
tionate and tender as each one recalled a moment of his own lost youth. 

The boy felt the powerful movement of the train beneath him and the 
lonely austerity and mystery of the dark earth outside that swept past 
forever with a fanlike stroke, an immortal and imperturbable stillness. 
It seemed to him that these two terrific negatives of speed and stillness, 
the hurtling and projectile movement of the train and the calm silence 
of the everlasting earth, were poles of a single unity a unity coherent 
with his destiny, whose source was somehow in himself. 

It seemed to him that this incredible and fortunate miracle of his own 
life and fate had ordered all these accidental facts into coherent and re- 
lated meanings. He felt that everything the powerful movement of 
the train, the infinite mystery and lonely wildness of the earth, the feel- 
ing of luxury, abundance, and unlimited wealth that was stimulated by 
the rich furnishings, of the pullman, and the general air of affluence of 
these prosperous men belonged to him, had corne out of his own life, 
and were ready to serve him at his own behest and control. 

It seemed to him that the glorious moment for which his whole lit? 
had been shaped, and toward which every energy and desire in his spirit 
had been turned, was now here. 

As that incredible knowledge came to him, a fury, wild, savage, word- 


less, pulsed through his blood and filled him with such a swelling and 
exultant joy as he had never known before. He felt the savage tongueless 
cry of pain and joy swell up and thicken in his throat, he felt a rending 
and illimitable power in him as if he could twist steel between his fingers, 
and he felt an almost uncontrollable impulse to yell into the faces of the 
men with a demonic glee. 

Instead he just sat down quickly with an abrupt, half -defiant move* 
ment, lit his cigarette, and spoke to one of the men quickly and diffi- 
dently, saying: 

"Hello, Mr. Flood." 

For a moment, the man thus addressed said nothing, but sat staring 'at 
the boy stupidly with an expression of heavy surprise. He was a well- 
dressed but bloated-looking man in his fifties whose gross figure even in 
repose betrayed a gouty tenderness. His face, which had the satiny rosy 
texture, veinous and tender, that alcoholism and a daily massage can 
give, was brutally coarse and sensual, but was given a disturbing and 
decisive character by his bulging yellow eyeballs and the gross lewd 
mouth which, because of several large buck teeth whose discolored sur- 
faces protruded under the upper lip, seemed always to be half opened 
and half smiling. And it was not a pleasant smile. It was a smile, faint, 
unmistakably sensual, and rather sly. It seemed to come from some 
huge choking secret glee and there was in it a quality that was jubilantly 

For a moment more Mr. Flood stared through his bulging eyes at the 
boy who had just spoken to him, with an air of comical and stupid sur- 
prise. Then amiably, but with a puzzled undertone, he said gruffly: 

"Hello. Oh, hello, son! How are you?" 

And after looking at the boy a moment longer, he turned his attention 
to the other men again. 

It was at just that season of the year when two events which are dear 
to the speculations of the American* had absorbed the public interest. 
These events were baseball and politics, and at that moment both were 
thrillingly imminent. The annual baseball contests for "the champion- 
ship of the world" were to begin within another day or two, and the 
national campaign for the election of the American president, which 
would be held in another month, was moving daily to its furious apogee 
of speeches, accusations, dire predictions, and impassioned promises. 
Both events gave the average American a thrill of pleasurable anticipa- 
tion: his approach to both was essentially the same. It was the desire o 


a man to see a good show, to "take sides" vigorously in an exciting con- 
test to be amused, involved as an interested spectator is involved, but 
not to be too deeply troubled or concerned by the result. 

It was just natural, therefore, that at the moment when the boy en- 
tered the smoking compartment of the train, the conversation of the men 
assembled there should be chiefly concerned with these twin sports. As he 
came in, there was a hum of voices, a sound of argument, and then he 
could see the hearty red-faced man the politician shaking his head 
dubiously and heard him say, with a protesting laugh: 

"Ah-h, I don't know about that. From what I hear it's just the other 
way. I was talking to a man from Tennessee the other day, and from 
what he says, Cox is gaining everywhere. He said that a month ago he 
wouldn't have given two cents for his chances, but now he thinks 
he's going to carry the State." 

"It's going to be close," another conceded, "He may win yet but it 
looks to me as if he's got a hard uphill fight on his hands. Tennessee al- 
ways polls a big Republican vote in some of those mountain districts 
they vote two to one Republican and this year it looks as if they're all 
set for a change. . . . What do you think about it, Emmet?" he said> 
appealing to the small, swarthy and important-looking little man, who 
sat there, swinging his short little legs and chewing on a fat cigar with 
an air of wise reflection. 

"Well," that person answered slowly after a thoughtful moment, tak- 
ing his cigar in his pudgy fingers and looking at it studiously "it may 
be it may be that the country's ready for a change now don't mis- 
understand me," he went on hastily, as if eager to set their perturbed 
minds at rest "I'm not saying that I want to see Harding elected that 
I'm going to cast my vote for him as you know, I'm a party man and 
have voted the Democratic ticket ever since I came of age but," again 
he paused, frowned importantly at his cigar, and spoke with careful 
deliberation "it may just be that we are due fora change this year 
that the country is ready for it that we need it. ... Now, I supported 
Wilson twke, in 1912, when he got elected to his first term of office, and 
again in 1916 " 

"The time he kept us out of war," some one said ironically. 

"And," the little man said deliberately "if he was running again if 
he was well enough to run if he wanted a third term (although I'm 
against the third term in principle)," he amended hastily again "why, 
i believe I'd go ahead and vote for him. That's how much I think of 


him. ^ t , again he paused, and meditated his chewed cigar pro- 
foundly "it may be we're due now for a change. Wilson was a great 
president in my opinion, the greatest man we've had since Lincoln I 
don't believe any other man could have done the job he did as well as 
he but" the word came out impressively, "the job is done! The war is 

over " 

"Yes, thank God!" some one murmured softly but fervently. 

"The people want to forget about the war they want to forget all 
their sacrifices and suffering " said this little man who had sacrificed 

and suffered nothing "they are looking forward to better times 

And in my opinion," he spoke again with his air of slow deliberation, 
important carefulness "in my opinion, better times are before us. I 
think that after this election, we are going to witness one of the greatest 
periods of national development and expansion that the world has ever 
known. . . . Why, we haven't begun yet! We haven't even star ted! "he 
cried suddenly, with a note of passionate conviction in his voice "Do 
you realize that this country is only a little more than a hundred years 
old? Why, we haven't even begun to show what we can do yet! We've 
spent all that time in getting started in building cities settling the 
country building railroads and factories developing the means of 
production making the tools with which to work. . . . The resources 
of this country are scarcely tapped as yet. And in my opinion we are on 
the eve of the greatest period of prosperity and growth the world has 
ever known. . . . Look at Altamont, for example," he went on cogently. 
"Ten years ago, in 1910, the census gave us a population of 18,000. . . . 
Now, we have thirty, according to government figures, and that doesn't 
begin to take the whole thing in: it doesn't take in Biltburn, Lunn's 
Cove, Beaver Hills, Sunset Parkway a dozen other places I can men- 
tion, all really part of the town but not included in the census figures. 
... If all the suburbs were included we'd have a population of at least 
40,000 inhabitants " 

"I'd call it nearer fifty," said another patriot. 

"And within another ten years we'll go to seventy-five, perhaps a 
hundred. . . . Why, that town hasn't begun to grow yet!" he said, bend- 
ing his short body forward in his enthusiasm and tapping his fat knee 
"It has been less than eight years since we established the Citizen's Bank 
and Trust Company with a capital of $25,000 and capital stock at $100 a 
share. . . . Now," he paused a moment, and looked around him, his 
swarthy f^ce packed with strong conviction "now, we have a capital of 


$2,000,000 deposits totalling more than $18,000,000 and as for the stock 
" for a moment the little man's swarthy face was touched with a faint 
complacent smile, he said smugly, "I don't know exactly how much stock 
you gentlemen may hold among you, but if any of you wants to sell what 
he has, I will pay you $1000 a share here and now," he slapped a fat 
small hand down upon a fat small knee "here and now! for every share 
you own." 

And he looked at them steadily for a moment with an air of chal- 

"Not for mine!" the florid heavy man cried heartily. "No sir! I've 
only got ten shares, Emmet, but you can't buy it from me at any price! I 
won't sell!" 

And the swarthy little man, pleased by tae answer, smiled compla- 
cently about him before he spoke again. 

"Yes, sir!" he said. "That's the way it is. And the thing that's begun 
to happen at home already is going to happen everywhere all over the 
country. From now on you're going to see a period of rising prices and 
high wages increased production, a boom in real estate, stocks, invest- 
ments, business of all kinds rising values everywhere such as you never 
saw before and never hoped to see." 

"And where is it going to stop?" 

"Stop!" the swarthy little man spoke almost curtly, and then barked, 
"It's not going to stop! Not during our lifetime, anyway! I tell you, 
man, we're just beginning! How can there be any talk of stopping 
when we haven't started yet! ... There's been nothing like it before," 
he cried with passionate earnestness "nothing to match it in the history 
of the world. We've had wars, booms, good times, hard times, slumps, 
periods of prosperity but, I tell you, gentlemen!" and here he smote 
himself sharply on the knee and his voice rose with the strength of an 
unshakable conviction "this thing is different! We have reached a 
stage in our development that no other country in the world has ever 
known that was never dreamed of before a stage that is beyond 
booms, depressions, good times, hard times anything " 

"You mean that after this we shall never be affected by those things?" 

"Yes, sir!" he cried emphatically. "I mean just that! I mean that we 
have learned the causes for each of those conditions. I mean that we 
have learned how to check them, how to control them. I mean that so 
far as we are concerned they don't exist any more!" His voice had be- 
~ome almost shrill with the force of his nersnasivp arornmenr. 


denly whipping a sheaf of envelopes, tied with a rubber band, out of his 
inner pocket, and gripping a stub of pencil in his stubby hand, he crossed 
his short fat legs with an energetic movement, bent forward poised above 
the envelopes, and said quietly but urgently: 

"See here, now! I'd like to show you a few figures! My business, 
as you know, is to look after other people's money your money, the 
town's money, everybody's money I've got to keep my fingers on the 
pulse of business at every moment of the day my business is to \now 
to \now and let me tell you something," he said quietly, looking 
directly in their eyes, "I do know so pay attention just a moment while 
I show these figures to you." 

And for some moments he spoke quietly, persuasively, his dark 
features packed with an energy of powerful conviction, while he rapidly 
jotted figures down upon the backs of the soiled envelopes, and they 
bent around him their medicine-man of magic numerals in an 
attitude of awed and rapt attentiveness. And when he had finished, 
there was silence for a moment, save for the rhythmic clack of wheels, 
the rocketing sound of the great train. Then one of the men, stroking 
his chin thoughtfully, and with an impressed air, said : 

"I see. . . . And you think, then, that in view of these conditions it 
would be better for the country if Harding is elected." 

The little man's manner became instantly cautious, non-committal, 


"I don't say that," he said, shaking his head in a movement of denial 
"I only say that whoever gets elected we're in for a period of unparalleled 
development. . . . Now both of them are good men as I say, I shall 
probably vote for Cox but you can rest assured," he spoke deliberately 
and looked around him in his compelling way "you can rest assured 
that no matter which one gets elected the country will be in good hands. 
There's no question about that." 

"Yes, sir," said the florid-faced politician in his amiable and hearty way. 
"I agree with you. . . . I'm a Democrat myself, both in practice and in 
principle. I'm going to vote for Cox, but if Harding gets elected I won't 
shed any tears over his election. We'll have to give the Republicans 
credit for a good deed this time they couldn't have made a wiser or a 
better decision. He has a long and honorable career in the service of his 
country," as he spoke his voice unconsciously took on the sententious 
ring and lilt of the professional politician "no breath of scandal has ever 
touched his name: in public and in private life he has remained as he 


began a statesman loyal to the institutions of his country, a husband 
devoted to his family life, a plain American of simple tastes who loves 
his neighbors as himself, and prefers the quiet life of a little town, the 
democracy of the front porch, to the marble arches of the capitol so, 
whatever the result may be," the orator concluded, "this nation need 
fear nothing: it has chosen well and wisely in both cases, its future is 


Mr. Flood, during the course of this impassioned flight, had remained 
ponderously unmoved. In the pause that followed, he sat impassively, 
his coarse jowled face and bulging yellowed eyes fixed on the orator in 
their customary expression of comic stupefaction. Now, breathing 
hoarsely and stertorously, he coughed chokingly and with an alarming 
rattling noise into his handkerchief, peered intently at his wadded hand- 
kerchief for a moment, and then said coarsely : 

"Hell! What all of you are saying is that you are goin' to vote for Cox 
but that you hope that Harding wins." 

"No, now, Jim " the politician, Mr. Candler, said in a protesting 
tone "I never said " 

"Yes, you did!" Mr. Flood wheezed bluntly. "You meant it, anyhow, 
every one of you is sayin' how he always was a Democrat and what a 
great man Wilson is, and how he's goin' to vote for Cox and every 
God-damn one of you is praying that the other feller gets elected. . . . 
Why ? I'll tell you why," he wheezed coarsely, " it's because we're sick 
an* tired of Woodrow, all of us we want to put the rollers under him 
an' see the last of him! Oh, yes, we are," he went on brutally as some one 
started to protest "we're tired of Woodrow's flowery speeches, an' we're 
tired of hearin' about wars an' ideals an' democracy an' how fine an* 
noble we all are an' 'Mister won't you please subscribe.' We're tired of 
hearin' bunk that doesn't pay an' we want to hear some bunk that does 
an' we're goin' to vote for the crook that gives it to us. ... Do you know 
what we all want what we're lookin' for?" he demanded, glowering 
brutally around at them. "We want a piece of the breast with lots of 
gravy an' the boy that promises us the most is the one we're for! ... 
Cox! Hell! All of you know Cox has no more chance of getting in than 
a snowball has in hell. When they get through with him he won't know 
whether he was run over by a five-ton truck or chewed up in a sausage 
mill. . . . Nothing has changed, the world's no different, we're just the 
same as we always were and I've watched 'em come an' go for forty 
years Elaine, Cleveland, Taft, McKinley, Roosevelt thewhole damned 


lot of 'em an' what we want from them is just the same: all we can get 
for ourselves, a free grab with no holts barred, and to hell with the other 

"So who are you going to vote for, Jim?" said Mr. Candler smiling. 

"Who? Me?" said Mr. Flood with a coarse grin. "Why, hell, you 
ought to know that without asking. Me I'm a Democrat, ain't I? 
don't I publish a Democratic newspaper? I'm going to vote for Cox, of 


And, in the burst of laughter that followed, some one could be heard, 
saying jestingly: 

"And who's going to win the Series, Jim ? Some one told me you're 
for Brooklyn!" 

"Brooklyn!" Mr. Flood jeered wheezingly. "Brooklyn has just the 
same kind of chance Cox has the 4 chance a snowball has in hell! 
Brooklyn! They're in just the same fix the Democrats are in they've 
got nothing on the ball. When Speaker and that Cleveland gang get 
through with them, Brooklyn is going to look just like Cox the day after 
the election. Brooklyn," he concluded with brutal conviction, "hasn't 
got a chance." 

And again the debate between the men grew eager, animated and 
vociferous: they shouted, laughed, denied, debated, jeered good-na- 
turedly, and the great train hurtled onward in the darkness, and the 
everlasting earth was still. 

And other men, and other voices, words, and moments such as these 
would come, would pass, would vanish and would be forgotten in the 
huge record and abyss of time. And the great trains of America would 
hurtle on through darkness over the lonely, everlasting earth the earth 
which only was eternal and on which our fathers and our brothers had 
wandered, their lives so brief, so lonely, and so strange into whose 
substance at length they all would be compacted. And the great trains 
would hurtle on forever over the silent and eternal earth fixed in that 
design of everlasting stillness and unceasing change. The trains would 
hurtle onward bearing other lives like these, all brought together for an 
instant between two points of time and then all lose, all vanished, 
broken and forgotten. The trains would bear them onward to their mil- 
lion destinations each to the fortune, fame, or happiness he wished, 
whatever it was that he was looking for but whether any to a sure 
success, a certain purpose, or the thing he sought what man could say? 
All that he knew was that these men, these words* this moment would 


vanish, be forgotten and that great wheels would hurtle on forever. 
And the earth be still. 

Mr. Flood shifted his gouty weight carefully with a movement of his 
fat arm, grunting painfully as he did so. This delicate operation com- 
pleted, he stared sharply and intently at the boy again and at length said 
bluntly : 

"You're one of those Gant boys, ain't you? Ain't you Ben's brother?" 

"Yes, sir," the boy answered. "That's right." 

"Which one are you?" Mr. Flood said with this same brutal direct- 
ness. "You ain't the one that stutters, are you?" 

"No," one of the other men interrupted with a laugh, but in a decided 
tone. "He's not the one. You're thinking of Luke." 

"Oh," said Mr. Flood stupidly. "Is Luke the one that stutters?" 

"Yes," the boy said, "that's Luke. I'm Eugene." 

"Oh," Mr. Flood said heavily. "I reckon you're the youngest one." 

"Yes, sir," the boy answered. 

"Well," said Mr. Flood with an air of finality, "I didn't know which 
one you were but I knew you were one of them. I knew I'd seen you 

"Yes, sir," the boy answered. He was about to go on, hesitated for a 
moment, and suddenly blurted out: "I used to carry a route on The 
Courier when you owned it. I guess that's how you remembered me." 

"Oh," said Mr. Flood stupidly, "you did? Yes, that's it, all right. I 
remember now." And he continued to look at the boy with his bulging 
stare of comic stupefaction and for a moment there was silence save for 
the pounding of the wheels upon the rail. 

"How many of you boys are there?" The swarthy and important- 
looking man who had previously been addressed as Emmet now spoke 
curiously: "There must be five or six in all." 

"No," the boy said, "there's only three now. There's Luke and Steve 
and me." 

"Oh, Steve, Steve," the little man said with an air of crisp finality, as 
if this was the name that had been at the tip of his tongue all the time. 
"Steve was the oldest, wasn't he?" 

"Yes, sir," said the boy. 

"Whatever became of Steve, anyway?" the man said. "I don't believe 
I've seen him in ten or fifteen years. He doesn't live at home any more, 
cfoes he?" 


"No, sir," the boy said. "He lives in Indiana." 

"Does he for a fact?" said the little man, as if this was a rare anc 
curious bit of information. "What's Steve doing out there? Is he ir 

For a moment the boy was going to say, "No, he runs a pool room 
and lives up over it with his wife and children," but feeling ashamed tc 
say this, he said : 

"I think he runs some kind of cigar store out there." 

"Is that so?" the man answered with an air of great interest. "Well," 
he went on in a moment in a conciliatory tone, "Steve was always 
smart enough. He had brains enough to do almost anything if ht 

Emmet Wade, the man who had asked the boy all these questions, was 
a quick, pompous little figure, corpulently built, but so short in stature as 
to be almost dwarfish-looking. His skin was curiously and unpleasantly 
swarthy, and save for a fringe of thin black hair at either side, his head 
was completely bald. In that squat figure, the suggestion of pompous 
authority and mountainous conceit was so pronounced that even in re- 
pose, as now, the whole man seemed to strut. He was, by virtue of that 
fortuitous chance and opportunity which has put so many small men in 
great positions, the president of the leading bank of the community, 
Even as he sat there in the smoking compartment, with his short fat legs 
crossed, the boy could see him sitting at his desk in the bank, swinging 
back and forth in his swivel chair thoughtfully, his pudgy hands folded 
behind his head as he dictated a letter to his obsequious secretary. 

"Where's old Luke? What's he doing, anyway?" another of the men 
demanded suddenly, beginning to chuckle even as he spoke. The 
speaker was the florid-faced, somewhat countrified-looking man already 
noted, who wore the string neck-tie and spoke with the rhetorical 
severity of the small-town politician. He was one of the town commis- 
sioners and in his hearty voice and easy manner there was a more genial 
quality than any of the others had. "I haven't seen that boy in years," 
he continued. "Some one was asking me just the other day what had 
become of him." 

"He's got a job selling farm machinery and lighting equipment," the 
boy answered* 

"Is that so?" the man replied with this same air of friendly interest 
"Where is he located? He doesn't get home very often, does he?" 

"No, sir," the boy said, "not very often. He comes in every two oc 


three weeks, but he doesn't stay home long at a time. His territory is 
down through South Carolina and Georgia all through there." 

"What did you say he was selling?" said Mr. Flood, who had been 
staring at the boy fixedly during all this conversation with his heavy 
expression of a slow, intent and brutal stupefaction. 

"He sells lighting systems and pumps and farm equipment and ma- 
chinery for farms," the boy said awkwardly. 

"That's Luke who does that?" said Mr. Flood after a moment, when 
this information had had time to penetrate. 

"Yes, sir. That's Luke." 

"And he's the one that stutters?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"The one that used to have the agency for The Saturday Evening Post 
and did all that talking when he sold 'em to you?" 

"Yes, sir. That's Luke." 

"And what d'you say he's doing now?" said Mr. Flood heavily. "Sell- 
ing farm machinery?" 

"Yes, sir. That's what he's doing." 

"Then, by God," said Mr. Flood, with a sudden and explosive emphasis 
which, after his former attitude of heavy, brutal stupefaction, was star- 
tling, "he'll do it! "The other men laughed and Mr. Flood shook his 
ponderous, crimson head slowly from side to side to emphasize his con- 
viction in the matter. 

"If any one can sell 'em, he'll do it," he said positively. "That boy could 
sell Palm Beach suits to the Esquimaux. They'd have to buy 'em just 
to keep him from talking them to death." 

"I'll tell you what I saw him do one time," said the politician, shifting 
his weight a little in order to accommodate himself more comfortably to 
the motion of the train. "I was standing in front of the post office one 
day talking to Dave Redmond about some property he owned out on the 
Haw Creek Road oh, it must have been almost fifteen years ago when 
here he comes hustling along, you know, with a big bundle of his papers 
under his arm. Well, he sails right into us, talking about a mile a minute 
and going so fast neither of us had a chance to get a word in edgeways. 
'Here you are, gentlemen,' he says, 'hot off the press, just the thing you've 
Been waiting for, this week's edition of The Saturday Evening Post, five 
cents, only a nickel, the twentieth part of a dollar.' By that time," said 
Mr. Candler, "he had the thing all opened up and shoved up right under 
Dave Redmond's nose, and he was turning the pages and telling him all 


about the different pieces it had in it and who wrote them and what was 
in them, and what a bargain it was for five cents. 'W-w-w-why,' he says, 
'if you b-b-b-bought it in a book, why it'd cost you a d-d-d-dollar and a 
half and then,' he says, 'it wouldn't be half as good.' Well, Dave was 
getting sort of red in the face by that time," Mr. Candler said, "and I 
could see he was sort of annoyed at being interrupted, but the boy kept 
right on with his spiel and wouldn't give up. 'I don't want it,' says Dave, 
Tm busy' and he tries to turn away from him, but Luke moves right 
around to the other side and goes after him about twice as hard as be- 
fore. 'Go on, go on,' says Dave. 'We're busy! I don't want it! I can't 
read!' he says. 'All right,' says Luke, 'then you can look at the p-p-p-pic- 
tures. Why, the pictures alone,' he says, 'are w-w : w-worth a half a dol- 
lar. It's the b-b-b-bargain of a life time,' he says. Well, the boy was press- 
ing him pretty hard and I guess Dave lost his temper. He sort of 
knocked the magazine away from him and shouted, 'Damn it, I told you 
that I didn't want it, and I mean it! Now go on! We're busy.' Well," said 
Mr. Candler, "Luke didn't say a word for a moment. He took his 
magazine and put it under his arm again, and he just stood there look- 
ing at Dave Redmond for a moment, and then he said, just as quiet as 
you please, 'All right, sir. You're the doctor. But I think you're going 
to regret it!' And then he turned and walked away from us. Well, sir," 
said Mr. Candler, laughing, "Dave Redmond's face was a study. You 
could see he felt pretty small to think he had shouted at the boy like 
that, and acted as he did. And Luke hadn't gone twenty feet before Dave 
Redmond called him back. 'Here, son,' he says, diving his hand down 
into his pocket, 'give me one of those things! I may never read it but 
it's worth a dollar just to hear you talk.' And he gave him a dollar, too, 
and made him take it," Mr. Candler said, "and from that day on Dave 
Redmond was one of the biggest boosters that Luke had. ... 'I think 
you're going to regret it,' " said Mr. Candler again, laughing at the 
memory. "That's the thing that did it that's what got him the way 
the boy just looked at him and said, 'All right, sir, but I think you're 
going to regret it.' That did the trick, all right." And pleased with his 
story and the memory it evoked, Mr. Candler looked mildly out the 
window for a moment, smiling. 

"That was Luke that done that?" Mr. Flood demanded hoarsely after 
a moment, with his air of bruta" and rather stunned surprise. "The one 
that stutters?" 

"Yes, that's the one all right," *aid Mr. Candler. "That's who it was." 


Mr. Flood pondered this information for a moment with his bulging 
eyes still fastened on Mr. Candler in their look of stupefied curiosity. 
Then, as the full import of what he had heard at length soaked into his 
intelligence, he shook his great coarse head once, slowly, in a movement 
of ponderous but emphatic satisfaction, and said with hoarse conviction: 

"Well, he's a good 'un! If any one can sell 'em, he's the one." 

This judgment was followed by a brief but heavy pause, which was 
broken in a moment by the voice of the pompous, swarthy little man 
who, in a tone of detached curiosity, said: 

"Whatever became of that other boy the one who used to work 
there in The Courier office when you owned it? What was his name, 

"Ben," said Mr. Flood heavily, but without hesitation. "That was 
Ben." Here he coughed in an alarming, phlegmy sort of way, cleared his 
throat and spat chokingly into the spittoon at his feet, wiped his mouth 
with his wadded handkerchief and in a moment, panting for breath, 
wheezed : 

"Ben was the one that worked for me." 

"Oh, yes, yes, yes!" the swarthy little man said rapidly, as if now it all 
came back to him. "Ben! That was the one! What ever became of 
him ? I haven't seen him recently." 

"He's dead," said Mr. Flood, still wheezing rapidly for breath and 
gazing at the spittoon. "That's the reason you haven't seen him," he said 
seriously. And suddenly, as if the long-awaited moment had come, he 
bent over, torn by a fit of choking and phlegmy sounds of really astound- 
ing proportions. When it was over, he raised himself, settled back slowly 
and painfully in his seat, and for a moment with closed eyes, did nothing 
but wheeze rapidly. In a moment, still with closed eyes, he gasped almost 
inaudibly : 

"Ben was the one that died." 

"Oh, yes! I do remember now," the pompous little man declared, nod- 
ding his head sharply with an air of conviction. "That's been some time 
ago, hasn't it?" he said to the boy. 

"He died two years ago," the boy replied, "during the war." 

"Oh, that's so, he did! I remember now!" the man cried instantly, 
with an air of recollection that somehow said that he remembered noth- 
ing. "He was overseas at the time, wasn't he?" he asked smoothly. 

"No, sir," the boy answered. "He was at home. He died of pneumonia 
during that big epidemic." 


"I know," the man said regretfully. "That got a lot of the boys. Ben 
was in service at the time, wasn't he?" 

"No," the boy answered. "He never got in. Luke was the one who was 
in service. Ben tried to get in twice but he couldn't pass the examina- 

"Is that so?" the man said vaguely. "Well, I ww mighty sorry to hear 
about his death. Old Ben was one fine boy!" 

Nothing was said for a moment. 

"I'll tell you how fine he was," Mr. Flood, who had been wheezing 
with closed eyes, now grunted suddenly, glaring solemnly about him 
with an air of brutal earnestness. "Now I think I knew that boy about as 
well as any man alive he worked for me for almost fifteen years started 
out when he was ten years old as a route-boy on The Cdurier and kept 
right on working for my paper until just a year or two before he died! 
And I'm here to tell you," he wheezed solemnly, "that they don't come 
any better than Ben!" Here he glowered around him pugnaciously as if 
the character of a dead saint had been called in question. "Now he 
wasn't one of your big talkers who'd promise everything and do noth- 
ing. Ben was a do-er, not a talker. You could depend on him," said Mr. 
Flood, hoarsely and impressively. "When he told you he'd do a thing, 
you'd know it was going to get done! As regular as a clock and as steady 
as the day is long! And as quiet a fellow as you ever saw," said Mr. 
Flood. "That was Ben for you! Am I right?" he demanded, suddenly 
turning to the boy. "Was that Ben?" 

"Yes, sir," the boy answered. "That was Ben." 

"And until you asked him something he'd go for days at a time with- 
out speaking to you, but I knew he didn't mean anything by it, it was 
just his way. He believed in tending to his own business and he ex- 
pected every one else to do the same." And for a moment, exhausted 
by these eulogies, he wheezed rapidly. 

"Well, the world would be a lot better off if there were more like him," 
the pompous, swarthy little man now said virtuously, as if this sentiment 
expressed his own pious belief and practice. "There are too many people 
sticking their noses in other people's business, as it is." 

"Well, they didn't stick their noses in Ben's business," said Mr. Flood 
with grim emphasis, "not after the first time, anyway. But they didn't 
come any better than that boy. I couldn't have thought more of him if 
he'd been my own son," he concluded piously and then gasped stertor- 
ously, lifted his cigar slowly to his lips with the thick, gouty tenderness 


that characterized all his movements and for a moment puffed slowly, 
wheezing reflectively over it. 

"Not that he was ever much like a boy," he grunted suddenly, with a 
surprising flash of insight. "He was always more like an old man 
didn't ever seem to be a kid like the others. Why," suddenly he chuckled 
with a phlegmy hoarseness, "I remember when he first began to come 
down there in the morning as a carrier, the other kids all called him 
Top. 1 That was Ben for you. Always had that scowl on his face, even 
when he was laughing as serious and earnest as an old man. But he 
was one of the best as good as they come." Again he coughed chok- 
ingly, bent over with a painful grunt, and cleared his throat phlegmily 
into the polished brass spittoon beside him. Then, wheezing a little, he 
drew the wadded silk handkerchief from a side-pocket, wiped his 
mouth with it, raised himself up in his seat a little, and settled back 
slowly, tenderly, wheezing, with a sigh! Then for a moment 
he labored painfully, eyes closed, with his rapid wheezing breath 
and finally, when it seemed he must be exhausted by his efforts and 
done with conversation for the evening, he wheezed faintly and unex- 

"That was Ben." 

"Oh, I remember that boy now," the swarthy pompous-looking man 
suddenly broke in with a flash of recollective inspiration "Wasn't Ben 
the boy who used to stand in the windows of The Courier offices when 
the World Series was being played, and post the score up on the score- 
board as they phoned it in to him?" 

"Yes," wheezed Mr. Flood, nodding heavily, "You got him now, all 
right. That was Ben." 

"I remember now," the swarthy little man said thoughtfully, with a 
far-away look in his eye. "I was thinking about him the other day when 
1 went by The Courier office. They were playing the Series then. They 
had another fellow in the window and I wondered what had become of 
him. So that was Ben?" 

"Yes," Mr. Flood wheezed hoarsely again. "That was Ben." 

For a moment as the gouty old rake had spoken of the boy's dead 
brother, the boy had felt within him a sense of warmth : a wakening of 
dead time, a stir of grateful affection for the gross old man as if there 
might have been in this bloated carcass some trace of understanding for 
the dead boy of whom he spoke an understanding faint and groping a* 


a dog who bays the moon might have of the sidereal universe, and yet 
genuine and recognizable. 

And for a moment present time fades out and the boy sits there staring 
blindly out at the dark earth that strokes forever past the train, and now 
he has the watch out and feels it in his hands. . . . And suddenly Ben 
is standing there before his vision, smoking, and scowls down through 
the window of the office at the boy. 

He jerks his head in a peremptory gesture: the boy, obedient to his 
brother's command, enters the office and stands there waiting at the 
counter. Ben steps down from the platform in the window, puts the .ear- 
phones on a table and walks over to the place where the boy is standing. 
For a moment, scowling fiercely, he stands there looking at the boy 
across the counter. The scowl deepens, he makes a sudden threatening 
gesture of his hard white hand as if to strike the boy, but instead he 
reaches across the counter quickly, seizes the boy by the shoulders, pulls 
him closer, and with rough but skillful fingers tugs, pulls and jerks the 
frayed string of neck-tie which the boy is wearing into a more orderly 
and presentable shape. 

The boy starts to go. 

"Wait!" says Ben, quietly, in a deliberately off-hand kind of tone. He 
opens a drawer below the counter, takes out a small square package, and 
scowling irritably, and without looking at the boy, he thrusts it at him. 
"Here's something for you," he says, and walks away. 

"What is it?" The boy takes the package and examines it with a queer 
numb sense of expectancy and growing joy. 

"Why don't you open it and see?" Ben says, his back still turned, and 
scowling down into a paper on the desk. 

"Open it?" the boy says, staring at him stupidly. 

"Yes, open it, fool!" Ben snarls. "It's not going to bite you!" 

While the boy fumbles with the cords that tie the package, Ben prowls 
over toward the counter with his curious, loping, pigeon-toed stride, leans 
on it with his elbows and, scowling, begins to look up and down the 
want-ad columns, while blue, pungent smoke coils slowly from his 
nostrils. By this time, the .boy has taken off the outer wrapping of the 
package, and is holding a small case, beautifully heavy, of sumptuous 
blue velvet, in his hands. 

"Well, did you look at it?" Ben says, still scowling up and down the 
want-ads of the paper, without looking at the boy. 

The boy finds the spring and presses it, the top opens, inside upon its 


rich cushion of white satin is a gold watch, and a fine gold chain. It is a 
miracle of design, almost as thin and delicate as a wafer. The boy stares 
at it with bulging eyes and in a moment stammers : 

"It's it's a watch!" 

"Does it look like an alarm clock?" Ben jeers quietly, as he turns a 
page and begins to scowl up and down the advertisements of another 

"It's for me?" the boy says thickly, slowly, as he stares at it. 

"No," Ben says, "it's for Napoleon Bonaparte, of course! . . . You 
little idiot! Don't you know what day this is? Have I got to do all the 
thinking for you ? Don't you ever use your head for anything except a 
hat-rack? . . . Well," he goes on quietly in a moment, still looking at 
his paper, "what do you think of it ? ... There's a spring in the back 
that opens up," he goes on casually. "Why don't you look at it?" 

The boy turns the watch over, feels the smooth golden surface of that 
shining wafer, finds the spring, and opens it. The back of the watch 
springs out, upon the inner surface is engraved, in delicate small words, 
this inscription: 

"To Eugene Gant 

Presented To Him On His Twelfth Birthday 
By His Brother 

B. H. Gant 
October 3, 1912" 

"Well," Ben says quietly in a moment. "Did you read what it says?" 

"I'd just like to say " the boy begins in a thick, strange voice, staring 
blindly down at the still open watch. 

"Oh, for God's sake!" Ben says, lifting his scowling head in the direc- 
tion of his unknown demon, and jerking his head derisively towards the 
boy. "Listen to this, won't you ? . . . Now, for God's sake, try to take 
good care of it and don't abuse it!" he says quickly and irritably. "You've 
got to look after a watch the same as anything else. Old man Enderby" 
this is the name of the jeweller from whom he has bought the 
watch "told me that a watch like that was good for fifty years, if you 
take care of it. ... You know," he goes on quietly, insultingly- "you're 
not supposed to drive nails with it or use it for a hammer. You know 
that, don't you?" he says, and for the first time turns and looks quietly 
at the boy. "Do you know what a watch is for?" 



"What is it for?" 

"To keep time with," says the boy. 

Ben says nothing for a moment, but looks at him. 

"Yes," he says quietly at length, with all the bitter weariness of a 
fathomless resignation and despair, the infinite revulsion, scorn, disgust 
which life has caused in him. "That's it. That's what it's for. To keep 
time with." The weary irony in his voice has deepened to a note of 
passionate despair. "And I hope to God you keep it better than the rest 
of us! Better than Mama or the old man better than me! God help 
you if you don't! . . . Now go on home," he says quietly in a moment, 
"before I kill you." 

"To keep time with!" 

What is this dream of time, this strange and bitter miracle of living ? 
Is it the wind that drives the leaves down bare paths fleeing? Is it the 
storm-wild flight of furious days, the storm-swift passing of the million 
faces, all lost, forgotten, vanished as a dream? Is it the wind that howls 
above the earth, is it the wind .that drives all things before its lash, is it 
the wind that drives all men like dead ghosts fleeing? Is it the one red 
leaf that strains there on the bough and that forever will be fleeing? All 
things are lost and broken in the wind : the dry leaves scamper down the 
path before us, in their swift-winged dance of death the dead souls flee 
along before us driven with rusty scuffle before the fury of the demented 
wind. And October has come again, has come again. 

What is this strange and bitter miracle of life? Is it to feel, when 
furious day is done, the evening hush, the sorrow of lost, fading light, far 
sounds and broken cries, and footsteps, voices, music, and all lost and 
something murmurous, immense and mighty in the air ? 

And we have walked the pavements of a little town and known the 
passages of barren night, and heard the wheel, the whistle and the toll- 
ing bell, and lain in the darkness waiting, giving to silence the huge 
prayer of our intolerable desire. And we have heard the sorrowful silence 
of the river in October and what is there to say? October has come 
again, has come again, and this world, this life, this time are stranger 
than a dream. 

May it not be that some day from this dream of time, this chronicle 
of smoke, this strange and bitter miracle of life in which we are the mov- 
ing and phantasmal figures, we shall wake ? Knowing our father's voice 
upon the porch again, the flowers, the grapevines, the low rich moons 


cf waning August, and the tolling bell and instantly to know we 
live, that we have dreamed and have awakened, and find then in our 
hands some object, like this real and palpable, some gift out of the lost 
land and the unknown world as token that it was no dream that we 
have really been there ? And there is no more to say. 

For now October has come back again, the strange and lonely month 
comes back again, and you will not return. 

Up on the mountain, down in the valley, deep, deep, in the hill, Ben- 
cold, cold, cold. 

"To keep time with!" 

And suddenly the scene, the shapes, the voices of the men about him 
swam back into their focus, and he could hear the rhythmed pounding 
of the wheels below him, and in his palm the frail-numbered visage 
of the watch stared blank and plain at him its legend. It was one min- 
ute after twelve o'clock, Sunday morning, October the diird, 1920, and 
he was hurtling across Virginia, and this world, this life, this time were 
stranger than a dream. 

The train had halted for a moment at one of the Virginia towns, and 
for a moment the people were conscious of the strange yet casual famil- 
iarity of all those sounds which suddenly will intercept the rhythmic 
spell of time and memory which a journey in a train can cast upon its 
passengers. Suddenly this spell was broken by the intrusion of peculiar 
things of sounds and voices the sense of instant recognition, union to 
a town, a life which they had never known, but with which they now felt 
immediately familiar. A trainman was coming swiftly down the station 
platform beneath the windows of the train, pausing from time to time 
to hammer on the car-wheels of each truck. A negro toiled past below 
them with a heavy rrttling truck in tow, piled high with baggage. 

And elsewhere > here were the casual voices of the train men con- 
ductors, porters, baggage masters, station men greeting each other with, 
friendly words, without surprise, speaking of weather, work, plans for the 
future, saying farewell in the same way. Then the bell tolled, the whistle 
blew, the slow panting of the engine came back to them, the train was 
again in motion; the station, and the station lights, a glimpse of streets, 
the thrilling, haunting, white-glazed incandescence of a cotton mill at 
night, the hard last lights of town, slid past the windows of the train. 
The train was in full speed now, and they were rushing on across the 
dark and lonely earth again. 


Then one of the men in the compartment, the politician, who had been 
looking curiously out the window at this town and station scene, turned 1 
and spoke with a casual interest to the boy : 

"Your father's in Baltimore now, isn't he, son?" he said. 

"Yes, sir. He's at Hopkins. Luke's up chere with him ." 

"Well, I thought I read something in the paper a week or two back 
about his being there," said the man with the florid face. 

"What's wrong with him?" Mr. Flood demanded coarsely in a 
moment, after he had absorbed this information. "Ain't he feeling 

The boy shifted nervously in his seat before he answered. His fathei 
was dying of cancer, but for some reason it did not seem possible or 
proper for him to say this to these men. He said: 

"He's got some kind of kidney trouble, I think. He goes up there for 
radium treatments." 

"It's the same thing John Rankin had," the florid-faced man glibly 
interposed at this moment. "Some sort of prostate trouble, isn't it?" he 

"Yes, sir, that's it," the boy said. For some reason he felt a sense of re- 
lief and gratefulness towards the man with the florid face. The easy, glib 
and false assurance that his father's "trouble" was "the same thing John 
Rankin had" seemed to give the disease a respectable standing and to 
divest the cancer of its fatal, shameful and putrescent horror. 

"I know what it is," the florid-faced man was saying, nodding his head 
in a confident manner. "It's the same thing John Rankin had. A lot of 
men get it after they're fifty. John told me he went through agony with 
it for ten years. Said he used to be up with it a dozen times a night. It 
got so he couldn't sleep, he couldn't rest, he couldn't do anything but 
walk the floor with it. It got him down so that he was nothing but skin 
and bones, he was walking around like a dead man. Then he went 
up there and had that operation and he's been a new man ever since. He 
looks better than he's looked in twenty years. I was talking to him the 
other day and he told me he didn't have an ache or a pain in the world. 
He said he was going to live to be a hundred and he looked it the pic- 
ture of health. 

"Well," he said in a friendly tone, now turning to the boy, "remember 
me to your father when you see him. Tell him Frank Candler asked to 
be remembered to him." 

"Are you and him good friends?" Mr. Flood demanded heavily, aftei 


another staring pause, with the brutal, patient, and somehow formidable 
curiosity which belonged to him. "You know him well?" 

"Who? Mr. Gant?" Mr. Candler cried with the hearty geniality of 
the politician, which seemed to suggest he knew the man so well that the 
very question was amusing to him. "Why, I've known him all my life 
I've known him ever since he first came to Altamont let's see, that's all 
of forty years ago when he first came there?" Mr. Candler went on 
reflectively, "or no, maybe a little less than that. Wait a mJnute." He 
considered seriously for a moment. "The first time I ever saw your 
father," said Mr. Candler very slowly and impressively, with a frown on 
his face and not looking at any one, but staring straight before him, "was 
in October, 1882 and I believe I believe," he said strongly, "that was 
the very year he came to town yes, sir! I'm positive of it!" he cried. 
"For Altamont was nothing but a cross-roads village in those days I 
don't believe we had 2000 people there why, that's all in the world it 
was." Mr. Candler now interrupted himself heartily. "The courthouse 
up there on the square and a few stores around it when you got two 
blocks away you were right out in the country. Didn't Captain Bob 
Porter offer me three lots he owned down there on Pisgah Avenue, not 
a block from the square, for ti thousand dollars, and didn't I laugh at 
him to think he was fool enough to ask such a price as that and expect ta 
get it! Why!" Mr. Candler declared, with a full countrified laugh, "it 
was nothing but a mud-hole down in the holler. I've seen old Captain 
Porter's hawgs wallerin' around in it many's the time. 'And you,' I said 
to him, 'you do you think I'd pay you a price like that for a mud-hole? 
Why, you must think I'm crazy, sure enough.' 'All right,' he says, 'have 
it your own way, but you'll live to see the day you'll regret not buying it. 
You'll Jive to see the day when you can't buy one of those lots for a 
thousand dollars!' One of them!" Mr. Candler now cried in hearty self- 
derision. "Why, if I owned one of those lots today, I'd be a rich man! 
I don't believe you could buy a foot of that land today for less than a 
thousand dollars, could you, Bruce?" he said, addressing himself to the 
swarthy, pompous-looking man who sat beside the boy. 

"Five thousand a front foot would come closer to it, I should think," 
the pompous little man replied, with the crisp, brisk and almost strutting 
assurance that characterized all his words and gestures. He crossed and 
uncrossed his fat little legs briskly as he uttered these words and then sat 
there "all reared back" as the saying goes, unable even to reach the floor 
with his fat little legs, but smiling a complacent smile and simply exud 


ing conceit and strutting self-satisfaction from every pore. "Yes, sirl* 
the swarthy little man continued, pompously, "I should doubt very 
much if you could buy a foot of that property for less than $5000 today!" 

"Well," said Mr. Candler with a satisfied air. "That's what I thought! 
I knew it would be way up there somewheres. But I could have had the 
whole thing once for a thousand dollars. I've kicked myself in the seat 
of the pants a thousand times since to think what a fool I was for not 
taking it when I had the chance! I'd be a rich man today if I had! It 
just goes to show you, doesn't it?" he concluded indefinitely. 

"Yes, sir," the pompous, swarthy little man replied, in his dry, briskly 
assured tones, "it goes to show that our hindsight is usually a great deal 
better than our foresight!" And he glanced about him complacently, 
obviously pleased with his wit and convinced that he had said something 
remarkably pungent and original. 

"It was about that time when I first met your father," said Mr. Can- 
dler, turning to the boy again. "Along there in the fall of '82 that's 
when it was all right and I don't think he'd been in town then more 
than a month, for in a town that size, I'd have known if he'd been there 
longer. And, yes, of course!" he cried sharply, struck by sudden recol- 
lection, "that very first day I saw him he was standing there in front 
of his shop with two nigger men, unloading some blocks of marble and 
granite and tombstones, I reckon, and moving them back into his shop. 
I guess he was just moving in at the time. He'd rented an old shack over 
there at the northeast corner of the square where the Sluder building is 
now. That's where it was, all right. I was working for old man Weaver at 
the time he had a grocery and general-goods store there opposite the 
old courthouse about where the Blue Ridge Coal and Ice Company is 
now. I was going back to work after dinner and had just turned the 
corner at the Square there from Academy Street when I saw your father. 
I remember stopping to watch him for a moment because there wa 
something about his appearance I don't know what it was, but if you 
saw him once you'd never forget him there was something about the 
way he looked and talked and worked that was different from any one 
I'd ever seen. Of course, he was an awful tall, big-boned, powerful-look- 
ing sort of man how tall is your father, son ?" 

"He was about six feet five," the boy answered, "but I guess he's not 
that much now he's stooped over some since he got old." 

"Well, he didn't stoop in those days," said Mr. Candler. "He always 
carried himself as straight as an arrow. I noticed that. He was an awful 


Dig man not that he had much weight on him he was always lean and 
shinny like but he looked big he had big bones his frame was big!" 
cried Mr. Candler. "You'll make a big man too when you fill out," he 
continued, giving the boy an appraising look. "Of course, you look like 
your mother's people, you're a Pentland and they're fleshy people, but 
you've got the old man's frame. You may make a bigger man than he 
is when you put on weight and widen out but it wasn't that your father 
was so big I think he looked bigger than he really was it was some- 
thing else about him about the way he gave orders to the niggers and 
went about his work," said Mr. Candler, in a rather puzzled tone. "I 
don't know what it was, but I'd never seen any one like him before. For 
one thing he was dressed so good!" he said suddenly. "He always wore 
his good clothes when he worked I'd never seen a man who did hard 
labor with his hands who dressed that way. Here he was, you know, 
sweating over those big blocks of stone with those two niggers and 
wearing better clothes than you and me would go to church in. Of 
course, he had his coat off, and his cuffs rolled back, and he was wearing 
one of those big striped aprons that go the whole way up across the 
shoulders but you could see his clothes was good," said Mr. Candler. 
"Looked like black broadcloth that had been made by a tailor and wear- 
ing a boiled shirt, mind you, and one of those wing collars with a black 
silk neck-tie and not afraid to work, either! Why, the first thing I saw 
him do," said Mr. Candler, laughing, "he let out a string of words at 
those niggers you could have heard from here to yonder because they 
were sweating and straining to get a big hunk of marble up on the 
rollers, that they hadn't been able to budge an inch. 'Merciful God,' he 
says, that's just the way he talked, you know 'Merciful God! Has it 
come to this that I must do everything for myself while you stand there 
gloating at my agony? I could as soon look for help from a couple of 
God-damned wooden Indians! In the name of God, stand back. Ill do 
it myself, sick and feeble as I am!' Well," said Mr. Candler, chuckling 
with the recollection, "with that he reaches down and gets a grip on 
that big hunk of stone and gives a heave and up she comes on to the 
rolling pins as nice and easy as anything you ever saw. Well, sir, you 
should have seen the look upon those niggers 5 faces I thought their 
eyes were going to pop out of their heads. And that's the first time I 
ever spoke to him, you know. I can remember the very words I said. I 
said to him, 'Well, if you call that being sick and feeble, most of the 
folks up in this part of the country are already dead and in their graves.' 


The man's story had stirred in the boy's mind a thousand living 
memories of his father. For a moment it seems to him that the lost 
world which these words evoked has never died, lives yet in all the 
radiant and enchanted color of his childhood, in all its proud, dense, and 
single fabric of passion, fury, certitude and joy. Every memory that the 
story brought to life is part of him. There are a thousand buried, name- 
less and forgotten lives, ten thousand strange and secret tongues alive 
now, urgent, swarming in his blood, and thronging at the gateways of his 
memory. They are the lives of the lost wilderness^ his mother's people; 
they are the tongues, the faces of the secret land, the dark half of his 
heart's desire, the fertile golden earth from which his father came. 

He knows the farmer boy who stood beside the road and watched the 
dusty rebels marching past towards Gettysburg. He smells the sweet 
fragrance of that lavish countryside, he hears the oaths, the jests, the 
laughter of the marching soldiers, he hears the cricketing stitch of noon 
in drowsy fields, the myriad woodnotes, secret, green, and cool, the 
thrumming noises. He feels the brooding wait and murmur of hot after- 
noon, the trembling of the distant guns in the hot air, and the vast, on- 
coming hush and peace and silence of the dusk. 

And then he is lying beside his father in the little gabled room up- 
stairs. He is there beside his father and his father's brothers in the dark- 
ness waiting, silent, waiting with an unspoken single question in 
their hearts. They are thinking of an older brother who that night is 
lying twelve miles away, shot through the lungs. He sees his father's 
gaunt, long form in darkness, the big-boned hands, the gaunt, long face, 
the cold, green-gray, restless and weary eyes, so deep and untelling, 
so strangely lonely, and the slanting, almost reptilian large formation 
of the skull that has, somehow, its own strange dignity as of some one 
lost. And the great stars of America blaze over them, the vast and 
lonely earth broods round them, then as now, with its secret and mys- 
terious presences, and then as now the million-noted ululation of the 
night throngs up from silence the song of all its savage, dark and meas- 
ureless fecundity. And he lies there in the darkness with his father and 
the brothers silent, waiting their cold, gray eyes turned upward to 
the loneliness of night, the blazing stars, having no words to say the 
thing they feel, the dream of time and the dark wonder of man's destiny 
which has drenched with blood the old earth, the familiar wheat, and 
fused that day the image of immortal history in a sleepy country town 
twelve miles away. 


He sees the gaunt figure of the stonecutter coming across the square 
at his earth-devouring stride. He hears him muttering underneath 
his breath the mounting preludes of his huge invective. He sees 
him striding on forever, bent forward in his haste, wetting his thumb 
and clearing his throat with an infuriated and anticipatory relish as he 
comes. He sees him striding round the corner, racing up-hill towards 
the house, bearing huge packages of meat beneath his arm. He sees him 
take the high front steps four at a time, hasten like a hurricane into the 
house, lay down the meat upon the kitchen table, and then without a 
pause or introduction, comes the storm fire, frenzy, curses, woes and 
lamentations, and then news out of the streets, the morning's joy, the 
smoking and abundant dinner. 

A thousand memories of that life of constant and unresting fury brim 
in the boy's mind in an instant. At this moment, with telescopic force, 
all of these memories of his father's life become fused and blurred to 
one terrific image, in which it seems that the whole packed chronicle, 
from first to last, is perfectly comprised. 

At the same moment the boy became conscious that the men were 
getting up around him, preparatory to departure, and that the florid- 
faced man, who had been speaking of his father, had laid his hand upon 
his shoulder in a friendly gesture, and was speaking to him. 

"Good-night, son," the man was saying. "I'm getting off at Washing- 
ton. If I don't see you again, good-luck to you. I suppose you'll be get- 
ting off at Baltimore to see your father before you go on, won't you?" 

"Yes. Yes, sir," the boy stammered confusedly, getting to his feet. 

"Remember me to him, won't you ? Tell him you saw Frank Candler 
on the train and he sent his best regards." 

"Yes, sir thank you I will," the boy said. 

"All right. And good luck to you, boy," the politician said, giving him 
his broad, fleshy and rather tender hand. "Give 'em hell when you get 
up there," he said quietly, with a firm, friendly clasp and a good-natured 

"Yes I certainly will thank you " the boy stammered, flaming in 
the face, with a feeling of proud hope, and with affection for the man 
who had spoken to him. 

Then the man had gone, but his words had brought back to the boy 
suddenly the knowledge that in the morning he was to see his father. 
And that knowledge instantly destroyed all the exultancy of flight and 


darkness, the incredible realization of his escape, the image of new 
lands, the new life, and the shining city that had been swelling in his 
spirit all night long. It had interposed its leaden face between him and 
this image of wild joy towards which he was rushing onward in the 
darkness, and its gray oppressive cloud weighed down upon him sud- 
denly a measureless weight of dull weariness, horror and disgust. 

He knew that next day he must meet his brother and his father, he 
knew that the dreaded pause and interruption of his flight would last but 
two short days, and that in this brief time he might see and know for 
the last time all that was living of his father, and yet the knowledge of 
this hated meeting rilled him with loathing, a terrible desire to get away 
from it as quickly as possible, to forget it, to escape from it forever. 

He knew in his heart that for the wretched, feeble, whining old man 
whom he must meet next day, he felt no love whatever. He knew, in- 
deed, that he felt instead a kind of hate the wretched kind of hatred 
that comes from intolerable pity without love, from suffering and disgust, 
from the agony of heart and brain and nerves, the poisonous and morbid 
infection of our own lives, which a man dying of a loathsome disease 
awakes in us, and from the self-hate, the self-loathing that it makes us 
feel because of our terrible desire to escape him, to desert him, to blot 
out the horrible memory we have for him, utterly to forget him. 

Now the three men remaining in the compartment were rising to de- 
part. Old Flood got up with a painful grunt, carefully dropped the 
chewed butt of his cigar into the brass spittoon, and walked tenderly 
with a gouty and flat-footed shuffle across the little room to the mirrored 
door of the latrine. He opened it, entered, and closed it behind him. 
The pompous swarthy little man got up, stretched his short fat arms out 
stiffly, and said, "Well, I'll be turning in. I'll see you in the morning, 
won't I, Jim?" 

The man with the thin, tight, palely freckled face, to whom these 
words had been addressed, looked up quickly from the magazine he 
was reading, and said sharply, in a rather cold, surprised and distant 

"What? ... Oh! Yes. Good-night, Wade." 

He got up then, carefully detached the horn-rimmed spectacles from 
his long, pointed nose, folded them carefully and put them in the breast 
pocket of his coat, and then took up the brief-case at his side. At this 
moment, a man, accompanied by Robert Weaver and by another youth 
who was about the same age as the boy, entered the smoking-room. 


The man, who was in his middle thirties, was a tall lean Englishman, 
already bald, with bitten and incisive features, a cropped mustache, and 
the high hard flush of the steady drinker. 

His name was John Hugh William Macpherson Marriott. He was the 
youngest son of an ancient family of the English nobility and just a year 
or two before he had married the great heiress, Virginia Willets. To the 
boy, and to all the other men in the train, except the man with the cold 
thin face and pointed nose, the Englishman was known only by sight 
and rumor, and his sudden entrance into the smoking-room had much 
the same effect as would the appearance of a figure from some leg- 
endary world of which they had often heard, but which they had never 

The reason for this feeling was that the Englishman and his wife lived 
on the great estate near town which her father had built and left to her. 
All the people in the town had seen this immense estate, had driven 
over some of its 90,000 acres, had seen its farms, its fields, its pastures, and 
its forests, its dairies, buildings, and its ranges of wild, smoke-blue moun- 
tains. And finally they had all seen from a distance its great mansion 
house, the gables, roof, and spires of a huge stone structure mod- 
el) ed on one of the great chateaux of France. But few of them had 
ever been inside the place or known the wonderful people who lived 

All the lives of these fortunate people had become, therefore, as strange 
and wonderful to the people of the town as the lives of legendary heroes. 
And in a curious way that great estate had shaped the whole life of the 
town. To be a part of that life, to be admitted there, to know the people 
who belonged to it would have been the highest success, the greatest 
triumph that most of the people in the town could imagine. They could 
not admit it, but it was the truth. At the heart of the town's desire was 
the life of that great house. 

The Englishman had entered the smoking compartment with the 
driving movement of a man who has been drinking hard, but is used 
to it. The moment that he entered, however, and saw the other people 
there he stopped short, with a kind of stunned abruptness. In a moment, 
after an astounded silence, he spoke to them, greeting them with the 
rough, brief, blurted-out friendliness of a shy and reticent man : 

"Hello! . . . Oh, hello! . . . How do!" He grinned formally and 
suddenly began to stare with an astounded expression at the gouty figure 
of old Flood who at just this moment had opened the door of the latrine 


and was shuffling painfully out into the compartment. Mr. Flood 
stopped and returned his look in kind, with his bulging and bejowled 
stare of comic stupefaction. 

In a moment more the Englishman recovered himself, grimaced with 
his shy, quick, toothy grin, and blurted out at Flood, as to the other men : 

"Oh, hello! Hello! How d'ye do!" 

"I'm pretty good, thank you!" old Flood said hoarsely and slowly, 
after a heavy pause. "How are you?" and continued to stare heavily and 
stupidly at him. 

But already the Englishman had turned abruptly from him, his face 
and lean neck reddening instantly and fiercely with the angry embar- 
rassment of a shy man. And with the same air of astonished discovery 
he now addressed himself to the man with the long thin nose and palely 
freckled face, blurting his words out rapidly and by rushes as before, 
but somehow conveying to the others the sense of his intimacy and 
friendship with this man and of thek* own exclusion. 

"Oh! . . . There you are, Jim!" he was saying in his astounded and 
explosive fashion. "Where the devil have you been all night? ... I 
say!" he went on rapidly without waiting for an answer, "won't you 
come in and have a spot with me before you turn in?" 

Every suggestion of the disdain and cold aloofness which had char- 
acterized the other man's manner towards his fellow passengers, had now 
vanished at the Englishman's words. Indeed, in the way he now came 
forward, smiling, and put his hand in a friendly manner on the English- 
man's arm, there was something almost scrambling in its effusive eager- 
ness. "Why yes, Hugh," he said hastily. "I'd be delighted, of course! 
. . . Just a minute," he said in an almost confused tone of voice, "till I 
get my brief-case. . . . Where did I leave it? Oh, here it is!" he cried, 
picking it up, and making for the door with his companion, "I'm all 
ready now! Let's go!" 

"Hugh! Hugh!" cried Robert who had accompanied the Englishman 
when he entered the compartment, and whom the Englishman now 
seemed to have forgotten entirely, "will I see you tomorrow before you 
get off? The words were spoken in a deep, rapid, eager tone of voice, 
and in the tone and manner of the youth who spoke them there was 
the same suggestion of almost fawning eagerness that had characterized 
the older man. 

"Eh! What's that?" the Englishman cried in a startled tone, turning 
abruptly and staring at the young man who had addressed him. "Oh! 


Yes, Robert! I'm stopping at Washington! Look in for a moment, won't 
you, if you're up!" 

Something in his tone and manner plainly and definitely said that the 
young man's company was no longer wanted for the evening, but the 
youth immediately nodded his head energetically and decisively, saying 
in a satisfied manner: 

"Good! Good! I'll do that! I'll be in to say good-bye tomorrow 

"Right! "the Englishman said curtly. "Good-night! . . . Good-night! 
. . . Good-night!" he blurted out, turning around and addressing every 
one, yet seeing no one, in a series of toothy grimaces. "Oh good-night!" 
he said suddenly, before going out, grinning and shaking hands briefly, 
in a gesture of permanent dismissal, with the other young man, who was 
a blond insignificant-looking youth, obviously a "hanger-on," with 
whom the Englishman evidently cared to have no further acquaintance. 
Then, pushing his companion before him through the green curtain, he 
went out suddenly with the same desperate shy abruptness, and in a 
moment the other men, saying good-night all around, had followed him, 
and the three young men were left alone in the compartment. It was 
now after one o'clock. Outside, the moon was up, flooding the dark 
earth of Virginia with a haunting light. That grand, moon-haunted 
earth stroked calmly past and, through the media of its changeless and 
unceasing change, the recession and recurrent movement of the en- 
chanted scene, the train made on forever its tremendous monotone that 
was itself the rhythm of suspended time, the sound of silence and for- 

For a moment, after the men had gone, Robert stared down sternly 
tnd quizzically at the boy, with an expression of mock gravity, and then, 
in his rapid, eager, deep-toned and rather engaging voice, said: 

"Well, Colonel? . . . What have you to say for yourself? . . . Was 
ihere grass on the back of her back, or was the foul deed perpetrated in 
your Hudson Super Six? . . . Come, sir! Explain yourself! Were you 
drunk or sober?" And suddenly lifting his thin, young, yet almost tor- 
tured-looking face and his restless eyes, which were inflamed with drink, 
and in whose haggard depths the incipient flashes of the madness which 
later would destroy him were already visible, he laughed suddenly, a 
strange, small, hoarsely falsetto kind of laugh, jerking his head towards 
the boy, and saying in an annoying and indefinite way: 


"Crazy! Crazy! Crazy! . . . The craziest man I ever saw!" He 
stopped suddenly and, looking down at the boy for a moment with this 
same expression of haggard, over-driven restlessness, demanded im- 
patiently : 

"What have you been doing by yourself all night ? Just sitting there 
all alone and doing nothing? . . . I'll swear, I don't see how you do it! 
... I'd go crazy sitting in one place like that without any one to talk 
to!" he said in an accusing and impatient tone of voice, as if the other 
youth had really done some extraordinary and unreasonable thing. He 
thrust one hand quickly and impatiently into the trousers' pocket of his 
well-cut clothes in such a way that his Delta Kappa Epsilon pin was for 
a moment visible. Then he stood there, jingling some coins about in his 
pocket and looking at the boy with his inflamed, restless, furiously des- 
perate eyes. Turning away suddenly, with a movement of impatience, 
he shook his head in a gesture of astounded disbelief, laughed his little 
hoarse falsetto laugh again, and said: 

"It beats me! . . . Don't see how he does it! ... Damnedest man I 
ever saw! . . . It'd drive me crazy to be alone like that!" 

He turned abruptly again, thrust both hands into his pockets, and for 
a moment stood looking at the boy with the old expression of mock 
gravity, and with a faintly malicious smile hovering about the edges of 
his thin, nervous, strongly modelled mouth. 

"Do you know what they're saying about you at home? ... Do you 
know what those people think of you ? . . . Do you know what all those 
old women up there are doing now?" he said hoarsely and accusingly, 
in his deep, sonorous, and rapid tone. 

"Now, Robert!" the boy suddenly shouted, in a choking and furious 
tone, getting to his feet. "Don't you start that stuff! I'm not going to 
listen to it! You can't fool me! They're not saying anything!" 

Robert lifted his thin, finely drawn face and laughed again, his little 
annoying hoarse-falsetto laugh, in which a note of malice and triumph 
was audible. 

"Why, they are!" he said solemnly. "It's the truth! ... I think you 
ought to know about it! ... I heard it everywhere, all over town!" 

"Oh, Robert, you're a liar!" the boy cried furiously. "What did you 
hear all over town? You heard nothing!" 

"Why, 1 did!" said Robert solemnly, as before. "I'll swear it to you. 
... Do you know what I heard the other day?" he went on in a blunt, 
accusing tone. "I heard that one of those women up there some old 


sister in the Baptist Church said she grew up with your mother and 
has known her all her life well, she's praying for you!" said Robert 
solemnly. "I'll swear she is!" 

"Praying for me!" the boy cried in an exasperated tone, but at the same 
time, feeling the numb white nauseous sickness of the heart which the 
intolerable thought that people are talking in a disparaging manner 
about him, his talents, or the success or failure of his life, can always 
bring to a young man. "Praying for me!" he fiercely shouted. "Why 
the hell should any one pray for me?" 

"I know! I know!" said Robert, nodding his head vigorously, and 
speaking with grave agreement. "That's what I told them. That's just 
the way I felt about it! ... But some of those people down there think 
you've gone to hell for good. . . . Do you know what I heard a woman 
say the other day ? She said that Eugene Gant had gone straight to the 
devil since he went away to the State University " 

"Robert, I don't believe you!" the boy shouted. "You're making all 
this up!" 

"Why, she did! So help rne God, I heard her say it, as sure as I'm 
standing here," swore Robert solemnly. "She said you'd gone down 
there and taken Vergil Weldon's courses in philosophy and that you were 
ruined for life! She said you had turned into a regular infidel didn't 
believe in God or anything any more. . . . Said she certainly did feel 
sorry for your mother," said Robert maliciously. 

"Feel sorry for my mother!" the boy fairly howled, dancing around 
now like a maniac. "Why the hell should the old bitch feel sorry for my 
mother! My mother can take care of herself; she doesn't need any one 
to feel sorry for her! . . . All right, then!" he cried bitterly, with sudden 
acceptation of the other's story. "Let 'em pray! If that's the way they 
feel, let 'em pray till they wear corns on their God-damned knees! The 
dirty hypocrites!" he cried bitterly. "I'll show them! Sneaking around 
behind your back to tell their rotten lies about you and their talk of 
praying for your soul! I'm glad I'm out of that damned town! The 
two-faced bastards! I wouldn't trust anv of them as far as I could throw 

an elephant by his tail!" 

"I know! I know!" said Robert, wagging his head in solemn agree- 
ment. "I agree with you absolutely. It's awful that's what it is." 

It was extraordinary that this absurd story, whether true or not, should 
have had such a violent effect on the emotions of the boy. Yet now that 
he had been told of some unknown woman's concern for the salvation of 


his soul, and that certain people of the praying sort already thought that 
he was "lost" the words were fastened in his flesh like rankling and 
envenomed barbs. And instantly, the moment that he heard this story 
and had cursed it, he thought that it was true. Now his mind could no 
longer remember the time just a moment before when Robert's words 
had seemed only an idle and malicious fabrication, probably designed to 
goad him, or, even if true, of no great importance. 

But now, as if the idle gossip of the other youth had really pronounced 
some fatal and inexorable judgment against his whole life, the boy's 
spirit was set against "them" blindly, as against a nameless and hostile 
antagonist. Plunged suddenly into a dark weather of fatality and grim 
resolution, something in him was saying grimly and desperately: 

"All right, then. If that's the way they feel about me, I'll show them." 
And seeing the lonely earth outside that went stroking past the windows 
of the train, he suddenly felt the dark and brooding joy of desperation 
and escape, and thought again : "Thank God ; I've got away at last. Now 
there's a new land, a new life, new people like myself who will see and 
know me as I am and value me and, by God, I'll show them! I'll show 
them, all right." 

And at just this moment of his gloomy thoughts, he muttered som- 
brely, aloud, with sullen face: 

"All right! To hell with them! I'll show them!" 

And was instantly aware that Robert was looking at him, laughing 
his little, malicious, hoarse, falsetto laugh, and that the other youth, 
who was a fair-haired, red-cheeked and pleasant-featured boy named 
Creasman, obviously somewhat inflamed by drink and by his social 
triumphs of the evening, was now, with an eager excessiveness of good- 
fellowship, slapping him on the back and saying boisterously: 

"Don't let him kid you, Gene! To hell with them! What do you care 
what they say, anyway?" 

With these words, he produced from his pocket a flask of the raw, 
colorless, savagely instant corn whiskey, of which both of them ap- 
parently had been partaking pretty freely, and tendering it to the boy, 

"Here, take a drink!" 

The boy took the flask, pulled out the cork, and putting the bottle to 
his lips, instantly gulped down two or three powerful swallows of the 
fiery stuff. For a moment, he stood there blind and choking, instantly 
robbed of breath, his throat muscles swelling, working, swallowing con- 


vulsively in an aching struggle to keep down the revolting and nauseous 
tasting stuff, and on no account to show the effort it was costing him. 

"Is that the kick of the mule, or not?" said the Creasman boy, grin- 
ning and taking back his flask. "How is it?" 

"Good!" the boy said hoarsely, gasping. "Fine! Best I ever tasted!" 
And he blinked his eyes rapidly to keep the tears from coming. 

"Well, there's lots more where that came from, boy," said Creasman. 
"I've got two pint jars of it in my berth. Let me know when you want 
some more." And putting the bottle to his lips with a smile, he tilted 
his head, and drank in long easy swallows which showed he was no 
novice to the act. 

"Damn!" cried Robert, staring at him, in his familiar tone of astounded 
disbelief. "Do you mean to tell me you can stand there drinking that 
stuff straight! Phew!" he said, shuddering, and making a face. "That 
old pukey stuff! Why, it'd rot the guts of a brass monkey! ... I don't 
see how you people do it!" he cried protestingly, as he took the bottle. In 
three gulps he had drained it to the last drop, and even as he was looking 
around for a place to throw the empty flask, he shuddered convulsively 
again, made a contracted grimace of disgust, and said to the others 
accusingly, with his small falsetto laugh of astounded protest: 

"Why, you'll kill yourself drinking that stuff raw ! Don't you know 
that? You must be crazy! . . . Wait a minute," he muttered suddenly, 
comically, dropping the bottle deftly into his pocket, as the swarthy, 
pompous little man named Wade entered, attired in blue pajamas and a 
dressing gown, and holding a tooth-brush and a tube of tooth paste in 
his hand : 

"Good-evening, sir! ... Ah-hah! . . . How d'ye do!" said Robert, 
bowing slightly and stiffly, and speaking in his grave, staccato, curiously 
engaging tone. 

"Still up, are you, boys?" the pompous little man remarked, with his 
usual telling aptness. 

"Ah-hah-hah!" said Robert appreciatively. "Yes, sir! ... Just fixin' 
to go! ... Come on," he muttered to the others, jerking his head to- 
wards the little man warningly. "Not here! . . . Well, good-night, sir! 
. . . Goin' now." 

"Good-night, boys," said the little man, who now had his back turned 
to them, and was standing at the silvery basin with his toothbrush held 
in readiness. "See you in the morning." 

"Ah-hah-hah!" said Robert. "Yes, sir. That's right. Good-night." 


And frowning in a meaningful way at his companions, he jerked his 
head toward the corridor, and, with an air of great severity, led them out. 

"Didn't want him to see us with that bottle," he muttered when they 
were outside in the corridor. "Hell! He's got the biggest bank in town! 
Where'd you be if Emmet Wade ever got the idea you're a liquor-head! 
. . . Wait a minute!" he said, with the dissonant abruptness that char- 
acterized so much of his speech and action. "Come outside here on the 
platform: nobody to see you there!" 

"I'll meet you out there. I'll go and get another bottle," whispered 
Creasman, and disappeared along the darkened corridor in the direction 
of his berth. In a moment he returned, and the three of them went out 
upon the platform at the car-end, closed the door behind them and there, 
among the rocking and galloping noises of the pounding wheels, they 
took another long drink of the savage liquor. By this time the fiery stuff 
was leaping, pulsing, pounding the mounting and exuberant illusions of 
its power and strength through every tissue of their blood and life. 

And outside, floating past their vision the huge pageant of its en- 
chanted and immortal stillness, the old earth of Virginia now lay dream- 
ing in the moon's white light. 

So here they are now, three atoms on the huge breast of the indifferent 
earth, three youths out of a little town walled far away within the great 
rim of the silent mountains, already a distant, lonely dot upon the im- 
mense and sleeping visage of the continent. Here they are three youths 
bound for the first time towards their image of the distant and en- 
chanted city, sure that even though so many of 'their comrades had 
found there only dust and bitterness, the shining victory will be theirs. 
Here they are hurled onward in the great projectile of the train across 
the lonely visage of the everlasting earth. Here they are three name- 
less grains of life among the manswarm ciphers of the earth, three faces 
of the million faces, three drops in the unceasing flood and each of them 
a flame, a light, a glory, sure that his destiny is written in the blazing 
stars, his life shone over by the fortunate watches of the moon, his fame 
nourished and sustained by the huge earth, whose single darling charge 
he is, on whose immortal stillness he is flung onward in the night, his 
glorious fate set in the very brain and forehead of the fabulous, the un- 
ceasing city, of whose million-footed life he will tomorrow be a part. 

Therefore they stand upon the rocking platform of the train, wild and 
idark and jubilant from the fierce liquor they have drunk, but more wild 


and dark and jubilant from the fury swelling in their hearts, the mad 
fury pounding in their veins, the savage, exultant and unutterable fury 
working like a madness in the adyts of their soul. And the great wheels 
smash and pound beneath their feet, the great wheels pound and smash 
and give a rhyme to madness, a tongue to hunger and desire, a certitude 
to all the savage, drunken, and exultant fury that keeps mounting, rising, 
swelling in them all the time! 

Click, clack, clackety-clack; click, clack, clackety-clack; click, clack, 
clackety-clack ; clackety-clackety-clack ! 

Hip, hop, hackety-hack; stip, step, rackety-rack; come and fetch it, 
come and fetch it, hickety hickety hack! 

Rock, reel, smash, and swerve; hit it, hit it, on the curve; steady, steady, 
does the trick, keep her steady as a stick; eat the earth, eat the earth, slam 
and slug and beat the earth, and let her whir-r, and let her pur-r, at eighty 




Put 'er there, boy! 

Put 'er there whah! whah-h! you ole long-legged frowsle-headed 

Whoop-ee! Whah whah-h! Why, Go-d-d-dam! 

Whee! Vealer rog? 

Wadja say ? Gant hearya! 

I say 'ja vealer rog? Wow! Pour it to her, son! Give 'er the gas! 
We're out to see the world! Run her off the god-damn track, boy! We 
don't need no rail, do we ? 

Hell no! Which way does this damn train go, anyway, after it 
leaves Virginia? 


Maryland my ! I don't want to go to Maryland! To hell with 
Mary's land! Also to hell with Mary's lamb and Mary's calf and Mary's 
blue silk underdrawers! Good old Lucy's the girl for me the loosier 
the better! Give me Lucy any day! Good old Lucy Bowles, God bless 
her she's the pick of the crowd, boys! Here's to Lucy! 

Robert! Art there, boy ? 

Aye, aye, sir! Present! 

Hast seen the damsel down in Lower Seven ? 


~F sooth, sir, that I have! A comely wench, I trow! 

Peace, fool! Don't think, proud Princocke, thou canst snare this 
dove of innocence into the nets of infamous desire with stale reversions 
of thy wit! Out, out, vile lendings! An but thou carried'st at thy 
shrunken waist that monstrous tun of guts thou takest for a brain 'twould 
so beslubber this receiving earth with lard as was not seen twixt 
here and Nottingham since butter shrove! Out, out upon you, scrap- 
ings of the pot! A dove, a doe, it is a faultless swan, I say, a pretty 

Now Virginia lay dreaming in the moonlight. In Louisiana bayous 
the broken moonlight shivers the broken moonlight quivers the light of 
many rivers lay dreaming in the moonlight beaming in the moonlight 
dreaming in the moonlight moonlight moonlight seeming in the moon- 
light moonlight moonlight to be gleaming to be streaming in the moon- 
light moonlight moonlight moonlight moonlight moonlight moonlight 

Mo-hoo-oonlight-oonlight oonlight oonlight oonlight oonlight 
oonlight oonlight oonlight oonlight 

To be seeming to be dreaming in the moonlight! 


Now! God-dam, let her have it! Wow-w! 

With slamming roar, hoarse waugh, and thunderbolted light, the 
southbound train is gone in one projectile smash of wind-like fury, and 
the open empty silence of its passing fills us, thrills us, stills us with the 
vision of Virginia in the moonlight, with the dream-still magic of Vir- 
ginia in the moon. 

And now, as if with recollected force, the train gains power from the 
train it passed, leaps, gathers, springs beneath them, smashes on with 
recollected demon's fury in the dark . . . 

With slam-bang of devil's racket and God-dam of curse give us the 
bottle, drink, boys, drink! the power of Virginia lies compacted in the 
moon. To you, God-dairn of devil's magic and slam-bang of drive, fire- 
flame of the terrific furnace, slam of rod, storm-stroke of pistoned wheel 
and thunderbolt of speed, great earth-devourer, city-bringer hail! 

To you, also, old glint of demon hawkeyes on the rail and the dark 


gloved hand of cunning you, there, old bristle-crops! Tom Wilson, 
H. F. Cline, or T. J. Johnson whatever the hell your name is 

CASEY JONES! Open the throttle, boy, and let her rip! Boys, I'm a 
belly-busting bastard from the State of old Catawba a rootin' tootin' 
shootin' son-of-a-bitch from Saw Tooth Gap in Buncombe why, God 
help this lovely bastard of a train it is the best damned train that ever 
turned a wheel since Casey Jones's father was a pup why, you sweet 
bastard, run! Eat up Virginia! Give her the throttle, you old goggle- 
eyed son-of-a-bitch up there! Pour it to her! Let 'er have it, you nigger- 
Baptist bastard of a shovelling fireman let 'er rip! Wow! By God, 
we'll be in Washington for breakfast! 

Why, God bless this lovely bastard of a train! It is the best damned 
train that ever pulled a car since Grant took Richmond! Which way 
does the damn thing go ? Pennsylvania ? Well, that's all right! Don't 
you say a word against Pennsylvania! My father came from Pennsyl- 
vania, boys, he was the best damned man that ever lived He was 
a stonecutter and he's better than any son-of-a-bitch of a plumber you 
ever saw He's got a cancer and six doctors and they can't kill him! 
But to hell with going where we go! We're out to see the world, boy! 
To hell with Baltimore, New York, Boston! Run her off the God- 
damn rails! We're going West! Run her through the woods cross 
fields rivers, through the hills! Hell's pecker! But I'll shove her up the 
grade and through the gap, no double-header needed! Let's see the 
world now! Through Nebraska, boy! Let's shove her through, now, 
you can do it! Let's run her through Ohio, Kansas, and the unknown 
plains! Come on, you hogger, let's see the great plains and the fields of 
wheat Stop off in Dakota, Minnesota, and the fertile places Give us a 
minute while you breathe to put our foot upon it, to feel it spring back 
with the deep elastic .feeling, 8000 miles below, unrolled and lavish, 
depthless, different from the East. 

Now Virginia lay dreaming in the moonlight! And on Florida's 
bright waters the fair and lovely daughters of the Wilsons and the Pot- 
ters; the Cabots and the Lowells; the Weisbergs and O'Hares; the Astors 
and the Goulds; the Ransoms and the Rands; the Westalls and the Pat- 
tons and the Webbs; the Reynolds and McRaes; the Spanglers and the 
Beams; the Gudgers and the Blakes; the Pedersons and Craigs all the 
lovely daughters, the Robinsons and Waters, the millionaires' sweet 
daughters, the Boston maids, the Beacon Slades, the Back Bay Wades, 


all of the merchant, lawyer, railroad and well-monied grades of Hudson 
River daughters in the moon's bright living waters lay dreaming in the 
moonlight, beaming in the moonlight, seeming in the moonlight, to be 
dreaming to be gleaming in the moon. 

Give 'em hell, son! 

Here, give him another drink! Attaboy! Drink her down! 

Drink her down drink her down drink her down damn your 
soul drink her down! 

By God, I'll drink her down and flood the whole end of Virginia, 
I'll drown out Maryland, make a flood in Pennsylvania I tell you boys 
I'll float 'em, I'll raise 'em up, I'll bring 'em down stream, now I mean 
the Potters and the Waters, the rich men's lovely daughters, the city's 
tender daughters, the Hudson river daughters 

Lay dreaming in the moonlight, beaming in the moonlight, to be 
seeming to be beaming in the moonlight moonlight moonlight oonlight 
oonlight oonlight oonlight oonlight. 

And Virginia lay dreaming in the moon. 

Then the moon blazed down upon the vast desolation of the Amer 
ican coasts, and on all the glut and hiss of tides, on all the surge and 
foaming slide of waters on lone beaches. The moon blazed down on 
18,000 miles of coast, on the million sucks and scoops and hollows of the 
shore, and on the great wink of the sea, that ate the earth minutely and 
eternally. The moon blazed down upon the wilderness, it fell on sleep- 
ing woods, it dripped through moving leaves, it swarmed in weaving 
patterns on the earth, and it filled the cat's still eye with blazing yellow. 
The moon slept over mountains and lay like silence in the desert, and it 
carved the shadows of great rocks like time. The moon was mixed with 
flowing rivers, and it was buried in the heart of lakes, and it trembled on 
the water like bright fish. The moon steeped all the earth in its living 
and unearthly substance, it had a thousand visages, it painted continental 
space with ghostly light; and its light was proper to the nature of all the 
things it touched : it came in with the sea, it flowed with the rivers, and 
it was still and living on clear spaces in the forest where no men watched. 

And in woodland darkness great birds fluttered to their sleep in 
sleeping woodlands strange and secret birds, the teal, the nightjar, and 
the flying rail went to their sleep with flutterings dark as hearts of sleep- 
ing men. In fronded beds and on the leaves of unfamiliar plants where 
the tarantula, the adder, and the asp had fed themselves asleep on their 


own poisons, and on lush jungle depths where green-golden, bitter red 
and glossy blue proud tufted birds cried out with brainless scream, the 
moonlight slept. 

The moonlight slept above dark herds moving with slow grazings in 
the night, it covered lonely little villages; but most of all it fell upon the 
unbroken undulation of the wilderness, and it blazed on windows, and 
moved across the face of sleeping men. 

Sleep lay upon the wilderness, it lay across the faces of the nations, it 
lay like silence on the hearts of sleeping men; and low upon lowlands, 
and high upon hills, flowed gently sleep, smooth-sliding sleep sleep- 


Go on to bed, Gene, go to bed now, go to bed. 

There's shump'n I mush shay t'you 

Damn fool! Go to bed! 

Go to bed, my balls! I'll go to bed when I'm God-damn good and 
ready! I'll not go to bed when there's shump'n I mush shay t'you 

Go on to bed now, Gene. You've had enough. 

Creasman, you're a good fellow maybe but I don't know you. . . . 
You keep out of this. . . . Robert . . . I'm gonna tell y' shump'n. . . . 
You made a remark t'night I dicln' like Prayin' for me, are they, 

You damn fool! You don't know what you're talkin' 'bout! Go on 
to bed! 

I'll go to bed, you bastard I got shump'n to shay t'you! Prayin* 
for me, are yuh ? Pray for yourself, y' bloody little Deke! 

Damn fool's crazy! Go on to bed now 

I'll bed yuh, you son-of-a-bitch! What was it that y' said that 


. What day ? You damned fool, you don't know what you're saying! 

I'll tell yuh what day! Coming along Chestnut Street that day after 
school with you and me and Sunny Jim Curtis and Ed Petrie and Bob 
Pegram and Carl Hartshorn and Monk Paul and the rest of those 

You damn fool! Chestnut Street! I don't know what you're talking 

Yes, you do! You and me and Bob and Carl and Irwin and Jim 
Homes and some other boys 'Member what y' said, yuh son-of-a-bitch? 


Old man English was in his yard there burning up some leaves and it 
was October and we were comin' along there after school and you could 
smell the leaves and it was after school and you said, "Here's Mr. Gant 
the tomb-stone cutter's son." 

You damn fool! I don't know what you're talking about! 

Yes, you do, you cheap Deke son-of-a-bitch Too good to talk to us 
on the street when you were sucking around after Bruce Martin or Steve 
Patton or Jack Marriott but a life-long brother oh! couldn't see 
enough of us, could you, when you were alone ? 

The damn fool's crazy ! 

Crazy, am I ? Well, we never had any old gummy grannies tied 
down and hidden in the attic which is more than some people that I 
know can say! you son-of-a-bitch who do you think you are with your 
big airs and big Deke pin! My people were better people than your 
crowd ever hoped to be we've been here longer and we're better people 
and as for the tombstone cutter's son, my father was the best damned 
stonecutter that ever lived he's dying of cancer and all the doctors in 
the world can't kill him he's a better man than any little ex-police court 
magistrate who calls himself a judge will ever be and that goes for you 
too you 

Why, you crazy fool! I never said anything about your father 

To hell with you, you damn little bootlicking 

Come on Gene come on you've had enough you're drunk now come 

Why God-damn you to hell, I hate your guts you 

All right, all right He's drunk! He's crazy Come on, Bill! 
Leave him alone! He don't know what he's doing 

All right. Good night, Gene. ... Be careful now See you in the 
morning, boy. 

All right, Robert, I mean nothing against you you 

All right! All right! Come on, Bill. Let him alone! Good night, 
Gene Come on let's go to bed! 

To bed to bed to bed to bed to bed! So, so, so, so, so! Make no noise, 
make no noise, draw the curtains; so, so, so. We'll go to supper i' the 
morning: so so, so. 

And He goe to bedde at noone. 

Alone, alone now, down the dark, the green, the jungle aisle between 
the dark drugged snorings of the sleepers. The pause, the stir, the sigh, 


the sudden shift, the train that now rumbles on through the dark forests 
of the dream-charged moon-enchanted mind its monotone of silence and 
forever : Out of these prison bands of clothes, now, rip, tear, toss, and 
haul while the green-curtained sleepers move from jungle depths and 
the even-pounding silence of eternity into the stiff white sheets, the 
close, hot air, his long body crookedly athwart, lights out, to see it shining 
faintly in the coffined under-surface of the berth above and sleepless, 
Virginia floating, dreamlike, in the still white haunting of the moon 

At night, great trains will pass us in the timeless spell of an un- 
sleeping hypnosis, an endless, and unfathomable stupefaction. Then 
suddenly in the unwaking never sleeping century of the night, the 
sensual limbs of carnal whited nakedness that stir with drowsy silken 
warmth in the green secrecies of Lower Seven, the slow swelling and 
lonely and swarmhaunted land and suddenly, suddenly, silence and 
thick hardening lust of dark exultant joy, the dreamlike passage of 
Virginia! Then in the watches of the night a pause, the sudden silence 
of up-welling night, and unseen faces, voices, laughter, and farewells 
upon a lonely little night-time station the lost and lonely voices of 
Americans: "Good-bye! Good-bye, now! Write us when you get there, 
Helen! Tell Bob he's got to write! Give my love to Emily! Good-bye, 
good-bye now write us, soon!" And then the secret, silken and sub- 
dued rustling past the thick green curtains and the sleepers, the low 
respectful negroid tones of the black porter and then the whistle cry, 
the tolling bell, the great train mounting to its classic monotone again, 
and presently the last lights of a little town, the floating void and lone- 
liness of moon-haunted earth Virginia! 

Also, in the dream thickets of eternal night there will be huge 
steamings on the rail, the sudden smash, the wall of light, the sudden 
flarings of wild, roaring light upon the moon-haunted and dream- 
tortured faces of the sleepers! 

And finally, in that dark jungle of the night, through all the visions, 
memories, and enchanted weavings of the timeless and eternal spell of 
time, the moment of forever there are two horsemen, riding, riding, 
riding in the night. 

Who are they ? Oh, we know them with our life and they will ride 
across the land, the moon-haunted passage of our lives forever. Their 
names are Death and Pity, and we know their face: our brother and our 
father ride ever beside us in the dream-enchanted spell and vista of the 
night; the hooves keep level time beside the rhythms of the train. 


Horsed on the black and moon-maned steeds of fury, cloaked in the 
dark of night, the spell of time, dreanvpale, eternal, they are rushing 
on across the haunted land, the moon-enchanted wilderness, and their 
hooves make level thunder with the train. 

Pale Pity and Lean Death their names are, and they will ride forevei- 
more the moon-plantations of Virginia keeping time time time to the 
level thunder of the train pounding time time time as with four-hooved 
thunder of phantasmal hooves they pound forever level with the train 
across the moon-plantations of Virginia. 

Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum as with storm- 
phantasmal hooves Lean Death and Pale Pity with quadrupedante 
putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum . . . campum . . . quadrupe- 
dante . . . putrem . . . putrem . . . putrem putrem putrem as with 
sonitu quatit ungula campum quadrupedante putrem . . . putrem . . . 
putrem putrem putrem . . . putrem . . . putrem . . . putrem putrem 
putrem quadrupedante quadrupedante quadrupedante putrem putrem 
as with sonitu quatit ungula campum quadrupedante putrem . . . pu- 
trem . . . putrem putrem putrem ... as with sonitu quatit ungula 
campum quadrupedante putrem . . . ungula campum . . . campum 
. . . ungula . ungula campum . . . 

AT day-break suddenly, he awoke. The first light of the day, faint, 
gray-white, shone through the windows of his berth. The faint gray 
light fell on the stiff white linen, feverishly scuffed and rumpled in the 
distressful visions of the night, on the hot pillows and on the long 
cramped figure of the boy, where dim reflection already could be seen on 
the polished surface of the berth above his head. Outside, that smoke- 
gray light had stolen almost imperceptibly through the darkness. The 
air now shone gray-blue and faintly luminous with day, and the old 
brown earth was just beginning to emerge in that faint light. Slowly, 
the old brown earth was coming from the darkness with that strange and 
awful stillness which the first light of the day has always brought. 

The earth emerged with all its ancient and eternal quality: stately 
and solemn and lonely-looking in that first light, it filled men's hearts 
with all its ancient wonder. It seemed to have been there forever, and, 
though they had never seen it before, to be more familiar to them than 
their mother's face. And at the same time it seemed they had discovered 


it once more, and if they had been the first men who ever saw the earth, 
the solemn joy o this discovery could not have seemed more strange or 
more familiar. Seeing it, they felt nothing but silence and wonder in 
their hearts, and were naked and alone and stripped down to their bare 
selves, as near to truth as men can ever come. They knew that they 
would die and that the earth would last forever. And with that feeling 
of joy, wonder, and sorrow in their hearts, they knew that another day 
had gone, another day had come, and they knew how brief and lonely 
are man's days. 

The old earth went floating past then in that first gaunt light of the 
morning, and it seemed to be the face of time itself, and the noise the 
train made was the noise of silence. They were fixed there in that classic 
design of time and silence. The engine smoke went striding out upon the 
air, the old earth field and wood and hill and stream and wood and field 
and hill went stroking, floating past with a kind of everlasting repeti- 
tiveness, and the train kept making on its steady noise that was like silence 
and forever until it almost seemed that they were poised there in that 
image of eternity forever in moveless movement, unsilent silence, space- 
less flight. 

All of the noises, rhythms, sounds and variations of the train seemed 
to belong to all the visions, images, wild cries and oaths and songs and 
haunting memories of the night before, and now the train itself seemed 
united to this infinite monotone of silence, and the boy felt that this land 
now possessed his life, that he had known it forever, and could now 
chink only with a feeling of unbelief and wonder that yesterday just 
yesterday he had left his home in the far mountains and now was 
stroking eastward, northward towards the sea. 

And against the borders of the East, pure, radiant, for the first time 
seen in the unbelievable wonder of its new discovery, bringing to all of 
us, as it had always done, the first life that was ever known on this earth, 
:he golden banner of the day appeared. 


IN morning sunlight on a hospital porch, five flights above the ground, 
an old dying spectre of a man was sitting, looking mournfully out across 
the sun-hazed sweep of the city he had known in his youth. He sat 
there, a rusty, creaking hinge, an almost severed thread of life, a shock- 
ingly wasted integument of skin and bone, of which every fibre and 


wnew was almost utterly rotted out, consumed and honey-combed by 
the great-plant of the cancer which flowered from his entrails and had 
now spread its fibrous roots to every tissue of his life. Everything was 
gone: everything was wasted from him: the face was drawn tight and 
boney as a beak, the skin was clean, tinged with a fatal cancerous yellow, 
and almost delicately transparent. The great thin blade of nose cut 
down across the face with knife-like sharpness and in the bony, slant- 
ing, almost reptilian cage-formation of the skull, the smallish cold-gray- 
green eyes were set wearily, with a wretched and enfeebled dullness, out 
across the great space of the city which swept away and melted at length 
into the sun-hazed vistas of October. 

Nothing was left but his hands. The rest of the man was dead. But 
the great hands of the stonecutter, on whose sinewy and bony substance 
there was so little that disease or death could waste, looked as power- 
ful and living as ever. Although one of his hands the right one 
had been stiffened years before by an attack of rheumatism, they had lost 
none of their character of power and massive shapeliness. 

In the huge shapely knuckles, in the length and sinewy thickness of 
the great fingers which were twice the size of an ordinary man's and 
in the whole length and sinewy contour of the hand, there was a quality 
of sculptural design which was as solid and proportionate as any of the 
marble hands of love and grace which the stonecutter had so often carved 
upon the surface of a grave-yard monument. 

Thus, as he sat there now, staring dully 01 it across the city, an 
emaciated and phantasmal shadow of a man, there was, in the appear- 
ance of these great living hands of power (one of which lay with an 
enormous passive grace and dignity across the arm of his chair and the 
other extended and clasped down upon the handle of a walking stick), 
something weirdly incongruous, as if the great strong hands had been 
unnaturally attached to the puny lifeless figure of a scarecrow. 

Now, wearily, desperately, the old enfeebled mind was trying to grope 
with the strange and bitter miracle of life, to get some meaning out of 
chat black, senseless fusion of pain and joy and agony, that web that had 
known all the hope and joy and wonder of a boy, the fury, passion, 
drunkenness, and wild desire of youth, the rich adventure and fulfilment 
#f a man, and that had led him to this fatal and abominable end. 

But that fading, pain-sick mind, that darkened memory could draw 
no meaning and no comfort from its tragic meditation. 
The old man's land of youth was far away in time, yet now only the 


magic lonely hills of his life's journey, his wife's people, seemed sorrow- 
ful, lonely, lost, and strange to him. Now he remembered all places, 
things, and people in his land of youth as if he had known them instantly 
and forever! 

Oh, what a land, a life, a time was that that world of youth and no 
return. What colors of green-gold, magic, rich plantations, and shin- 
ing cities were in it! For now when this dying man thought about 
this vanished life that tragic quality of sorrow and loneliness had van- 
ished instantly. All that he had read in books about old wars seemed far 
and lost and in another time, but when he thought about these things 
that he had known as a boy, he saw them instantly, knew them, breathed 
them, heard them, felt them, was there beside them, living them with 
his own life. He remembered now his wife's people! tramping in along 
the Carlisle Pike on that hot first morning in July, as they marched in 
towards Gettysburg. He had been standing there with his next older 
brother Gil, beside the dusty road, as they came by. 

And he could see them now, not as shadowy, lost, phantasmal figures 
of dark time, the way they were in books; he saw them, heard them, 
knew them again as they had been in their shapeless rags of uniforms, 
their bare feet wound in rags, their lank disordered hair, sometimes 
topped by stove-pipe hats which they had looted out of stores. 

"God!" the old man thought, wetting his great thumb briefly, grir> 
ning thinly, as he shook his head, "What a scare-crow crew that wasl 
In all my days I never saw the like of it! A bum-looking lot, if ever there 
was one! And the bravest of the brave, the finest troops that ever lived!* 
his mind swung upward to its tide of rhetoric "Veterans all of them, 
who had been through the bloodiest battles of the war, they did not 
know the meaning of the word 'fear,' and they would have gone into 
the valley of death, the jaws of hell, at a word from their Commander!" 
His mind was alive again, in full swing now, the old voice rose and 
muttered on the tides of rhetoric, the great hand gestured, the cold-gray, 
restless eyes glared feverishly about and all of it began to live for him 

He remembered how he and Gil had been standing there beside the 
road, two barefoot farmer boys, aged thirteen and fifteen, and he remem- 
bered how the rebels would halt upon their march, and shout jesting re- 
marks at the two boys standing at the road. One shouted out to Gil: 

"Hi, there, Yank! You'd better hide! Jcb Stuart's on the way atf* 
he's been lookin 5 fer you!" 


And Gil, older, bolder, more assured than he, quick-tempered, stub- 
born, fiercely partisan, had come back like a flash: 

"He'll be lookin' fer you when we get through with you!" said Gil 
and the rebels had slapped their ragged thighs and howled with laughter, 
shouting at their crestfallen, grinning comrade: 

" 'Y, God! I reckon you'll be quiet now! He shore God put it on ye 
that time!" 

And he was there beside his brother, seeing, hearing, living it again, 
as he remembered his strange first meeting with the Pentland tribe, the 
haunting miracle of that chance meeting. For among that ragged crew 
he had first seen his wife's uncle, the prophet, Bacchus Pentland, and he 
had seen him, heard him that hot morning, and had never been able to 
forget him, although it would be twenty years, after many strange turn- 
ings of the roads of destiny and wandering, before he was to see the man 
again, and know his name, and join together the two halves of fated 

Yes, there had been one among the drawling and terrible mountaineers 
that day who passed there on that dusty road, and paused, and talked, 
and waited in the heat, one whose face he had never been able to forget 
one whose full, ruddy face and tranquil eyes were lighted always by a 
smile of idiot and beatific saintliness, whose powerful fleshy body gave 
off a stench that would have put a goat to shame, and who on this ac- 
count was called by his jesting comrades, "Stinking Jesus." Yes, he had 
been there that morning, Bacchus Pentland, the fated and chosen of 
God, the supernatural appearer on roads at nightfall, the harbinger of 
death, the prophet, chanting even then his promises of Armageddon and 
the Coming of the Lord, speaking for the first time to the fascinated ears 
of those two boys, the full, drawling, unctuous accents of the fated, 
time-triumphant Pentlands. 

They came, they halted, in the dust before the two young brothers, the 
lewd tongues mocked and jested, but that man of God, the prophet 
Bacchus Pentland, was beautifully unmoved by their unfaith, and 
chanted, with a smile of idiot beatitude, his glorious assurances of an 
end of death and battle, everlasting peace: 

"Hit's a comin'!" cried the prophet with the sweet purity of his saintly 
smile. "Hit's a comin'! Accordin' to my figgers the Great Day is almost 
here! Oh, hit's a comin', boys!" he sweetly, cheerfully intoned, "Christ's 
kingdom on this airth's at hand! We're marchin* in to Armageddon, 


"Hell, Back !" drawled one, with a slow grin of disbelief. "You said the 
same thing afore Chancellorsville, an' all I got from it was a slug of 
canister in my tail!" and the others slapped their ragged thighs and 

"Hit's a comin'!" Bacchus cried, with a brisk wink, and his seraphic 
smile, unmoved, untouched, by their derision. "He'll be here a-judgin* 
an' decreein' afore the week is over, settin' up His Kingdom, an' sortin' 
us all out the way it was foretold the sheep upon His right hand an 9 
the goats upon His left." 

"An' which side are you goin' to be on, Back, when all this sortin' 
starts?" one drawled with evil innocence. "Are you goin' to be upon the 
sheep-side or the goat-side?" he demanded. 

"Oh," cried Bacchus cheerfully, with his seraphic smile, "I'll be upon 
the sheep-side, brother, with the Chosen of the Lord." 

"Then, Back," the other slowly answered, "you'd shore God better 
begin to smell a whole lot better than you do right now, for if the Lord 
starts sortin' in the dark, Back, He's goin' to put you where you don't 
belong He'll have you over thar among the goats!" and the hot brood- 
ing air had rung then with their roars of laughter. Then a word was 
spoken, an order given, the ragged files trudged on again, and they were 

Now this was lost, a fume of smoke, the moment's image of a fading 
memory, and he could not say it, speak it, find a word for it but he 
could see that boy of his lost youth as he sat round the kitchen table with 
the rest of them. He could see his cold-gray, restless, unhappy eyes, the 
strange, gaunt, almost reptilian conformation of his staring face, his 
incredibly thin, blade-like nose, as he waited there in silence, looking 
uneasily at the others with his cold-gray, shallow, most unhappy eyes. 
And the old man seemed to be the spy of destiny, to look at once below 
the roofs of a million little houses everywhere and on the star-shone, 
death-flung mystery of the silent battlefield. 

He seemed to be a witness of the secret weavings of dark chance 
that threads our million lives into strange purposes that we do not know. 
He thought of those dead and wounded men upon the battlefield whose 
lives would touch his own so nearly, the wounded brother that he knew, 
the wounded stranger he had seen that day by magic chance, whom he 
could not forget, and whose life, whose tribe, in the huge abyss and secret 
purpose of dark time would one day interweave into his own. 

Oh, he could not find a word, a phrase to utter it, but he seemed to 


have the lives not only o those people in him, but the lives of millions of 
others whose dark fate is thus determined, interwove, and beyond their 
vision or their knowledge, foredone and made inevitable in the dark 
destiny of unfathomed time. And suddenly it seemed to him that all 
of it was his, even as his father's blood and earth was his, the lives and 
deaths and destinies of all his people. He had been a nameless atom in 
the great family of earth, a single, unknown thread in the huge warp of 
fate and chance that weaves our lives together and because of this he had 
been the richest man that ever lived; the power, grandeur, glory of this 
earth and all its lives of men were his. 

And for a moment he forgot that he was old and dying, and pride, 
joy, pain, triumphant ecstasy that had no tongue to utter it rose like a 
wordless swelling pa?an in his throat, because it seemed to him that this 
great familiar earth on which his people lived and wrought was his, 
that all the mystery, grandeur and beauty in the lives of men were his, 
and that he must find a word, a tongue, a door to utter what was his, 
or die! 

How could he say it! How could he ever find a word to speak the joy, 
the pain, the grandeur bursting in the great vine of his heart, swelling 
like a huge grape in his throat mad, sweet, wild, intolerable with all 
the mystery, loneliness, wild secret joy, and death, the ever-returning 
and renewing fruitfulness of the earth! 

A cloud-shadow passed and left no light but loneliness on the massed 
green of the wilderness! A bird was calling in a secret wood! And there 
was something going, coming, fading there across the sun oh, there was 
something lonely and most sorrowful, his mother's voice, the voices of 
lost men long, long ago, the flowing of a little river in the month of 
April and all, all of it was his! 

A man had passed at sunset on a lonely road and vanished unknown 
years ago! A soldier had toiled up a hill at evening and was gone! A 
man was lying dead that day upon a bloody field! and all, all, all of it 
was his! 

He had stood beside a dusty road, feet bare, his gaunt boy's face cold- 
eyed, staring, restless, and afraid. The ragged jesting rebels passed be- 
fore him in the dusty heat, the huge drowse and cricketing stitch of 
noon was rising from the sweet woods and nobly swelling, fertile fields 
of Pennsylvania and all, all, all of it was his! 

A prophet passed before him in the road that day with the familiar 
haunting unction of an unmet, unheard tribe; a woimded prophet lay 


that night below the stars and chanted glory, peace, and Armageddon; 
the boy's brother lay beside the prophet bleeding from the lungs; the 
boy's people grimly waited all night long in a little house not fourteen 
miles away; and all, all, all of it was his! 

Over the wild and secret earth, the lonely, everlasting, and unchang- 
ing earth, under the huge tent of the all-engulfing night, amid the fury, 
chaos, blind confusions of a hundred million lives, something wild and 
secret had been weaving through the generations, a dark terrific weaving 
of the threads of time and destiny. 

But it had come to this : an old man dying on a porch, staring through 
the sun-hazed vistas of October towards the lost country of his youth. 

This was the end of man, then, end of life, of fury, hope, and passion, 
glory, all the strange and bitter miracle of chance, of history, fate, and 
destiny which even a stonecutter's life could include. This was the end, 
then : an old man, feeble, foul, complaining and disease-consumed who 
sat looking from the high porch of a hospital at the city of his youth. 
This was the sickening and abominable end of flesh,' which infected time" 
and all man's living memory of morning, youth, and magic with the 
death-putrescence of its cancerous taint, and made. us doubt that we had 
ever lived, or had a father, known joy : this was the end, and the end 
was horrible in ugliness. At the end it was not well. 

On the last morning when his sons came, Gant was there on the high 
porch of the hospital, among the other old men who were sitting there. 
All of the old men looked very feeble, shrunk, and wasted, their skins 
had the clear and frail transparency that men get in hospitals, and in the 
bright tremendous light of morning and October, the old men looked 

Some looked out wearily and vacantly across the sun-hazed vistas of 
the city, with the dull and apathetic expression of men who are tired of 
pain and suffering and disease, and who wish to die. Others, who were 
in a state of convalescence after operations, looked out upon the sun-lit 
city with pleased, feeble smiles, awkwardly holding cigars in their frail 
fingers, putting them in their mouths with the uncertain and unaccus- 
tomed manner which a convalescent has, and looking up slowly, ques- 
tioningly, with a feeble and uncertain smile into the faces of their rela- 
tives, wives, or children, as if to ask if it could really be true that they 
were going to live instead of die. 

Their smiles and looks were pitiful in their sense of childish trust, of 


growing hopefulness, of wondering disbelief, but there was some- 
thing shameful in them, too. In these feeble smiles of the old men there 
was something pleased and impotent, as if they had been adroitly cas- 
trated in the hospital, and shorn of their manhood. And for some reason, 
one felt suddenly a choking anger and resentment against some force 
in life which had betrayed these old men and made them impotent 
something unspeakably ruthless, cruel, and savage in the world which 
had made these old and useless capons. And this anger against this un- 
known force suddenly took personal form in a blind resentment against 
doctors, nurses, internes, and the whole sinister and suave perfection of 
the hospital which, under glozing words and cynical assurances, could 
painlessly and deftly mutilate a living man. 

The great engine of the hospital, with all its secret, sinister, and in- 
human perfections, together with its clean and sterile smells which 
seemed to blot out the smell of rotting death around one, became a hate- 
ful presage of man's destined end. Suddenly, one got an image of his 
own death in such a place as this of all that death had come to be and 
the image of that death was somehow shameful. It was an image of a 
death without man's ancient pains and old gaunt aging an image of 
death drugged and stupefied out of its ancient terror and stern dignities 
of a shameful death that went out softly, dully in anesthetized oblivion, 
with the fading smell of chemicals on man's final breath. And the image 
of that death was hateful. 

Thus, as Gant sat there, his great figure wasted to the bone, his skin 
yellow and transparent, his eyes old and dead, his chin hanging loose 
and petulant, as he stared dully and unseeingly out across the great city 
of his youth, his life seemed already to have been consumed and wasted, 
emptied out into the void of this cruel and inhuman space. Nothing was 
left, now, to suggest his life of fury, strength and passion except his 
hands. And the hands were still the great hands of the stone-cutter, power- 
ful, sinewy, and hairy as they had always been, attached now with a 
shocking incongruity to the wasted figure of a scarecrow. 

Then, as he sat there staring dully and feebly out upon the city, his 
great hairy hands quietly at rest upon the sides of his chair, the door 
opened and his two sons came out upon the porch. 

"W-w-w-well, Papa," Luke sang out in his rich stammering tones. 
"Wy- wy, wy, wy, I fought we'd just c-c-c-come by for a m-m-m-moment 
to let Gene say g-g-good-bye to you." In a low tone to his younger 


brother he added nervously, "Wy, I fink, I fink I'd m-m-make it short 
and snappy if I were you. D-d-don't say anyf ing to excite him, wy, wy, 
wy, I'd just say good-bye." 

"Hello, son," said Gant quietly and dully, looking up at him. For a 
moment his great hand closed over the boy's, and he said quietly : 

"Where are you going?" 

"Wy, wy, wy, he's on his way up Norf . . . wy . . . he's g-g-going to 
Harvard, Papa." 

"Be a good boy, son," Gant said gently. "Do the best you can. If you 
need anything let your mother know," he said wearily and indifferently, 
and turned his dead eyes away across the city. 

"Wy . . . wy . . wy he'd like to tell you " 

"Oh, Jesus. ... I don't want to hear about it," Gant began to sniffle in 
a whining tone. . . . "Why must it all be put on me . . . sick and old 
as I am ? ... If he wants anything let him ask his mother for it ... it's 
fearful, it's awful, and it's cruel that you should afflict a sick man in this 
way." He was sniffling petulantly and his chin, on which a wiry stubble 
of beard was growing, trembled and shook like that of a whining child. 

"I ... I ... I fink I'd just say g-g-good-bye now, Gene . . . m-m- 
make it, wy make it quick if you can : he's not f-ff eeling good today." 

"Good-bye, Papa," the boy said, and bending, took his father's great 
right hand. 

"Good-bye, son," Gant now said quietly as before, looking up at him. 
He presented his grizzled mustache, and the boy kissed him briefly, 
feeling the wiry bristles of the mustache brush his cheek as they had al- 
ways done. 

"Take care of yourself, son," said Gant kindly. "Do the best you can. M 
And for a moment he covered the boy's hand with one great palm, and 
gestured briefly across the city: "I was a boy here," Gant said quietly, 
"over fifty years ago . . . old Jeff Streeter's hotel where I lived was 
there," he pointed briefly with his great forefinger. "... I was alone in 
this great city like the city you are going to a poor friendless country 
boy who had come here to learn his trade as apprentice to a stonecutter 
. . . and I had come from . . . there!" as he spoke these words, a flash 
of the old power and life had come into Gant's voice, and now he was 
pointing his great finger strongly towards the sun-hazed vistas of the 
North and West. 

"There!" cried Gant strongly now, his eye bright and shining as he 
followed the direction of his pointing finger. "Do you see, son? . , - 


Pennsylvania . . . Gettysburg . . . Brant's Mill ... the country that 
I came from is there! . . . Now I shall never see it any more," he said. 
"I'm an old man and I'm dying. . . . The big farms ... the orchards 
... the great barns bigger than houses. . . . You must go back, son, 
someday to see the country that your father came from. ... I was a boy 
here," the old man muttered. "Now I'm an old man. . . . I'll come back 
no more. ... No more . . . it's pretty strange when you come to think 
of it," he muttered, "by God it is ! " 

"Wy, wy, P-p-p-papa," Luke said nervously, "I ... I fink if he's 
g-g-going to get his train wy we'd better " 

"Good-bye, son," Gant said quietly again, giving the boy the pressure 
of his great right hand. "Be a good boy, now." 

But already all the fires of life, so briefly kindled by this memory of 
the past, had died away: he was an old sick man again, and he had 
turned his dead eyes away from his son and was staring dully out across 
the city. 

"Good-bye, Papa," the boy said, and then paused uncertainly, not 
knowing further what to say. From the old man there had come sud- 
denly the loathesome stench of rotting death, corrupt mortality, and he 
turned swiftly away with a feeling of horror in his heart, remembering 
the good male smell of childhood and his father's prime the smell of 
the old worn sofa, the chairs, the sitting room, the roaring fires, the plug 
tobacco on the mantelpiece. 

At the screen door he paused again and looked back down the porch. 
His father was sitting there as he had left him, among the other old 
dying men, his long chin loose, mouth half open, his dead dull eye fixed 
vacantly across the sun-hazed city of his youth, his great hand of power 
quietly dropped upon his cane. 

Down in the city's central web, the boy could distinguish faintly the 
line of the rails, and see the engine smoke above the railroad yards, and 
as he looked, he heard far off that haunting sound and prophecy of 
youth and of his life the bell, the wheel, the wailing whistle and the 

Then he turned swiftly and went to meet it and all the new lands, 
morning, and the shining city. Upon the porch his father had not moved 
or stirred. He knew that he should never see him again. 




THE train rushed on across the brown autumnal land, by wink of 
water and the rocky coasts, the small white towns and flaming colors 
and the lonely, tragic and eternal beauty of New England. It was the 
country of his heart's desire, the dark Helen in his blood forever burning 
and now the fast approach across October land, the engine smoke that 
streaked back on the sharp gray air that day! 

The coming on of the great earth, the new lands, the enchanted city, 
the approach, so smoky, blind and stifled, to the ancient web, the old 
grimed thrilling barricades of Boston. The streets and buildings that 
slid past that day with such a haunting strange familiarity, the mighty 
engine steaming to its halt, and the great train-shed dense with smoke 
and acrid with its smell and full of the slow pantings of a dozen engines, 
now passive as great cats, the mighty station with the ceaseless throng- 
ings of its illimitable life, and all of the murmurous, remote and mighty 
sounds of time forever held there in the station, together with a tart and 
nasal voice, a hand'sbreadth off that said : "There's hahdly time, but try 
it if you want." 

He saw the narrow, twisted, age-browned streets of Boston, then, 
with their sultry fragrance of fresh-roasted coffee, the sight of the man- 
swarm passing in its million-footed weft, the distant drone and murmur 
of the great mysterious city all about him, the shining water of the 
Basin, and the murmur of the harbor and its ships, the promise of glory 
and of a thousand secret, lovely and mysterious women that were wait- 
ing somewhere in the city's web. 

He saw the furious streets of life with their unending flood-tide of a 
million faces, the enormous library with its million books; or was it 
just one moment in the flood-tide of the city, at five o'clock, a voice, a 
face, a brawny lusty girl with smiling mouth who passed him in an 
instant at the Park Street station, stood printed in the strong October 
wind a moment breast, belly, arm, and thigh, and all her brawny lusti- 
hood and then had gone into the man-swarm, lost forever, never found? 

Was it at such a moment engine-smoke, a station, a street, the sound 
of time, a face that came and passed and vanished, could not be forgot^ 



here or here or here, at such a moment of man's unrecorded memory, 
that he breathed fury from the air, that fury came? 

He never knew; but now mad fury gripped his life, and he was 
haunted by the dream of time. Ten years must come and go without a 
moment's rest from fury, ten years of fury, hunger, all of the wandering 
in a young man's life. And for what? For what? 

What is the fury which this youth will feel, which will lash him on 
against the great earth forever? It is the brain that maddens with its 
own excess, the heart that breaks from the anguish of its own frustra- 
tion. It is the hunger that grows from everything it feeds upon, the thirst 
that gulps down rivers and remains insatiate. It is to see a million men. 
a million faces and to be a stranger and an alien to them always. It is 
to prowl the stacks of an enormous library at night, to tear the books out 
of a thousand shelves, to read in them with the mad hunger of the 
youth of man. 

It is to have the old unquiet mind, the famished heart, the restless 
soul; it is to lose hope, heart, and all joy utterly, and then to have 
them wake again, to have the old feeling return with overwhelming 
force that he is about to find the thing for which his life obscurely and 
desperately is groping for which all men on this earth have sought 
one face out of the million faces, a wall, a door, a place of certitude and 
peace and wandering no more. For what is it that we Americans are 
seeking always on this earth ? Why is it we have crossed the stormy seas 
so many times alone, lain in a thousand alien rooms at night hearing the 
sounds of time, dark time, and thought until heart, brain, flesh and spirit 
were sick and weary with the thought of it; "Where shall I go now? 
What shall I do?" 

He did not know the moment that it came, but it came instantly, at 
once. And from that moment on mad fury seized him, from that 
moment on, his life, more than the life of any one that he would ever 
know, was to be spent in solitude and wandering. Why this was true, or 
how it happened, he would never know; yet it was so. From this time 
on save for two intervals in his life he was to live about as solitary a 
life as a modern man can have. And it is meant by this that the number 
of hours, days, months, and years the actual time he spent alone 
would be immense and extraordinary. 

And this fact was all the more astonishing because he never seemed to 
seek out solitude, nor did he shrink from life, or seek to build himself 
into a wall away from all the fury and the turmoil of the earth. Rather, 


he loved life so dearly that he was driven mad by the thirst and hunger 
which he felt for it. Of this fury, which was to lash and drive him on 
for fifteen years, the thousandth part could not be told, and what is told 
may seem unbelievable, but it is true. He was driven by a hunger so 
literal, cruel and physical that it wanted to devour the earth and all the 
things and people in it, and when it failed in this attempt, his spirit 
would drown in an ocean of horror and desolation, smothered below the 
overwhelming tides of this great earth, sickened and made sterile, hope- 
less, dead by the stupefying weight of men and objects in the world, 
toe everlasting flock and flooding of the crowd. 

Now he would prowl the stacks of the library at night, pulling books 
Out of a thousand shelves and reading in them like a madman. The 
thought of these vast stacks of books would drive him mad : the more he 
read, the less he seemed to know the greater the number of the books 
he read, the greater the immense uncountable number of those which he 
could never read would seem to be. Within a period of ten years he read 
at least 20,000 volumes deliberately the number is set low and opened 
the pages and looked through many times that number. This may seem 
unbelievable, but it happened. Dryden said this about Ben Jonson: 
"Other men read books but he read libraries" and so now was it with 
this boy. Yet this terrific orgy of the books brought him no comfort, 
peace, or wisdom of the mind and heart. Instead, his fury and despair 
increased from what they fed upon, his hunger mounted with the food 
it ate. 

He read insanely, by the hundreds, the thousands, the ten thousands, 
yet he had no desire to be bookish; no one could describe this mad assault 
upon print as scholarly: a ravening appetite in him demanded that he 
read everything that had ever been written about human experience. 
He read no more from pleasure the thought that other books were 
waiting for him tore at his heart forever. He pictured himself as tearing 
the entrails from a book as from a fowl. At first, hovering over book 
stalls, or walking at night among the vast piled shelves of the library, 
he would read, watch in hand, muttering to himself in triumph or anger 
at the timing of each page: "Fifty seconds to do that one. Damn you, 
we'll see! You will, will you?" and he would tear through the next 
page in twenty seconds. 

. This fury which drove him on to read so many books had nothing to 
do with scholarship, nothing to do with academic honors, nothing to do 
with formal learning. He was tipt ia any way a scholar and did not want 


to be one. He simply wanted to know about everything on earth; he 
wanted to devour the earth, and it drove him mad when he saw he 
could not do this. And it was the same with everything he did. In the 
midst of a furious burst of reading in the enormous library, the thought 
of the streets outside and the great city all around him would drive 
through his body like a sword. It would now seem to him that every 
second that he passed among the books was being wasted that at this 
moment something priceless, irrecoverable was happening in the streets, 
and that if he could only get to it in time and see it, he would somehow 
get the knowledge of the whole thing in him the source, the well, the 
spring from which all men and words and actions, and every design 
upon this earth proceeds. 

And he would rush out in the streets to find it, be hurled through the 
tunnel into Boston and then spend hours in driving himself savagely 
through a hundred streets, looking into the faces of a million people, try- 
ing to get an instant and conclusive picture of all they did and said and 
were, of all their million destinies, and of the great city and the everlast- 
ing earth, and the immense and lonely skies that bent above them. And 
he would search the furious streets until bone and brain and blood could 
stand no more until every sinew of his life and spirit was wrung, trem- 
bling, and exhausted, and his heart sank down beneath its weight of 
desolation and despair. 

Yet a furious hope, a wild extravagant, belief, was burning in him all 
the time. He would write down enormous charts and plans and projects 
of all that he proposed to do in life a program of work and living which 
would have exhausted the energies of 10,000 men. He would get up in 
the middle of the night to scrawl down insane catalogs of all that he had 
seen and done: the number of books he had read, the number of miles 
he had travelled, the number of people he had known, the number of 
women he had slept with, the number of meals he had eaten, the num- 
ber of towns he had visited, the number of states he had been in. 

And at one moment he would gloat and chuckle over these stupendous 
lists like a miser gloating over his hoard, only to groan bitterly with 
despair the next moment, and to beat his head against the wall, as he 
remembered the overwhelming amount of all he had not seen or done, or 
known. Then he would begin another list filled with enormous catalogs 
of all the books he had not read, all the food he had not eaten, all the 
women that he had not slept-with, all the states he had not been in, all 
the towns he had not visited. Then he would write down plans and 


programs whereby all these things must be accomplished, how many 
years it would take to do it all, and how old he would be when he had 
finished. An enormous wave of hope and joy would surge up in him, 
because it now looked easy, and he had no doubt at all that he could do 

He never asked himself in any practical way how he was going to live 
while this was going on, where he was going to get the money for this 
gigantic adventure, and what he was going to do to make it possible. 
If he thought about it, it seemed to have no importance or reality what- 
ever he just dismissed it impatiently, or with a conviction that some old 
man would die and leave him a fortune, that he was going to pick up a 
purse containing hundreds of thousands of dollars while walking in the 
Fenway, and that the reward would be enough to keep him going, or 
that a beautiful and rich young widow, true-hearted, tender, loving, and 
voluptuous, who had carrot-colored hair, little freckles on her face, a snub 
nose and luminous gray-green eyes with something wicked, yet loving 
and faithful in them, and one gold filling in her solid little teeth, was 
going to fall in love with him, marry him, and be forever true and faith- 
ful to him while he went reading, eating, drinking, whoring, and de- 
vouring his way around the world; or finally that he would write a book 
or play every year or so, which would be a great success, and yield him 
fifteen or twenty thousand dollars at a crack. Thus, he went storming 
away at the whole earth about him, sometimes mad with despair, weari- 
ness, and bewilderment; and sometimes wild with a jubilant and exult- 
ant joy and certitude as the conviction came to him that everything 
would happen as he wished. Then at night he would hear the vast 
sounds and silence of the earth and of the city, he would begin to think 
of the dark sleeping earth and of the continent of night, until it seemed 
to him it all was spread before him like a map rivers, plains, and moun- 
tains and 10,000 sleeping towns; it seemed to him that he saw everything 
at once. 


ONE morning, a few days after his arrival in Cambridge, he had re- 
ceived a letter, written on plain but costly paper in a fine but almost 
feminine hand. The letter read as follows: 

"Dear Sir: I should be pleased to have your company for dinner 


Wednesday evening at eight-thirty at The Cock Horse Tavern on Brattle 
Street. In case of your acceptance will you kindly call at my rooms in 
Holyoke House, opposite the Widener Library, at seven-fifteen? 

Sincerely yours, 


He read that curt and cryptic note over and over with feelings mixed 
of astonishment and excitement. Who was Francis Starwick? Why 
should Francis Starwick, a stranger of whom he had never heard, invite 
him to dinner? And why was that laconic note not accompanied by a 
word of explanation ? 

It is likely he would have gone anyway, from sheer curiosity, and be- 
cause of the desperate eagerness with which a young man, alone in a 
strange world for the first time, welcomes any hope of friendship. But 
before the day was over, he had learned from another student in Professor 
Hatcher's celebrated course for dramatists, of which he himself was 
now a member, that Francis Starwick was Professor Hatcher's assistant; 
and correctly inferring that the invitation had some connection with this 
circumstance, he resolved to go. 

In this way, his acquaintance began with that rare and tragically gifted 
creature who was one of the most extraordinary figures of his generation 
and who, possessing almost every talent that an artist needs, was lacking 
in that one small grain of common earth that could have saved him, and 
brought his work to life. 

No fatality rested on that casual meeting. He could not have foreseen 
in what strange and sorrowful ways his life would weave and interweave 
with this other one, nor could he have known from any circumstance of 
that first meeting that this other youth was destined to be that triune 
figure in his life, of which each man knows one and only one, in youth, 
and which belongs to the weather of man's life, and to the fabric of his 
destiny: his friend, his brother and his mortal enemy. Nor was there, 
in the boy he met that night, any prefigurement of the tragic fatality with 
which that brilliant life was starred, the horrible end toward which, 
perhaps, it even then was directed. 

They were both young men, and both filled with all the vanity, anguish 
and hot pride of youth, and with its devotion and humility; they were 
both strong in their proud hope and faith and untried confidence; they 
both had shining gifts and powers and they were sure the world was 
theirs; they were splendid and fierce and weak and strong and foolish; 


the prescience of wild swelling joy was in them; and the goat cry was 
still torn from their wild young throats. They knew that the most for- 
tunate, good and happy life that any man had ever known was theirs, 
if they would only take it; they knew that it impended instantly the 
fortune, fame, and love for which their souls were panting; neither had 
yet turned the dark column, they knew that they were twenty, and that 
they could never die. 

Francis Starwick, on first sight, was a youth of medium height and 
average weight, verging perhaps toward slenderness, with a pleasant 
ruddy face, brown eyes, a mass of curly auburn-reddish hair, and a cleft 
chin. The face in its pleasant cast and healthy tone, and spacious, quiet 
intelligence was strikingly like those faces of young Englishmen which 
were painted by Hoppner and Sir Henry Raeburn towards the beginning 
of the nineteenth century. It was an attractive, pleasant immensely sensi- 
tive and intelligent face, but when Starwick spoke this impression of 
warmth and friendliness was instantly destroyed. 

He spoke in a strange and rather disturbing tone, the pitch and timbre 
of which it would be almost impossible to define, but which would 
haunt one who had heard it forever after. His voice was neither very 
high nor low, it was a man's voice and yet one felt it might almost have 
been a woman's; but there was nothing at all effeminate about it. It was 
simply a strange voice compared to most American voices, which are 
rasping, nasal, brutally coarse or metallic. Starwick's voice had a dis- 
turbing lurking resonance, an exotic, sensuous, and almost voluptuous 
quality. Moreover, the peculiar mannered affectation of his speech was 
so studied that it hardly escaped extravagance. If it had not been for the 
dignity, grace, and intelligence of his person, the affectation of his speech 
might have been ridiculous. As it was, the other youth felt the moment's 
swift resentment and hostility that is instinctive with the American 
when he thinks some one is speaking in an affected manner. 

As Starwick welcomed his guest his ruddy face flushed brick-red with 
the agonizing embarrassment of a shy and sensitive person to whom 
every new meeting is an ordeal; his greeting was almost repellently cold 
and formal, but this, too, with the studied affectation of his speech, was 
protective armor for his shyness. 

"A-d'ye-do," he said, shaking hands, the greeting coming from his 
throat through lips that scarcely seemed to move. "It was good of you 

to come." 

"It was good of you to ask me." the other boy said awkwardly, 


fumbled desperately for a moment, and then blurted out "I didn't know 
who you were at first when I got your note but then somebody told 
me: you're Professor Hatcher's assistant, aren't you?" 

"Ace," said Starwick, this strange sound which was intended for "yes" 
coming through his lips in the same curious and almost motionless 
fashion. The brick-red hue of his ruddy face deepened painfully, and for 
a moment he was silent "Look!" he said suddenly, yet with a casual- 
ness that was very warm and welcome after the stilted formality of his 
greeting, "would you like a drink? I have some whiskey." 

"Why, yes sure certainly," the other stammered, almost feverishly 
grateful for the diversion "I'd like it." 

Starwick opened the doors of a small cupboard, took out a bottle, a 
siphon, and some glasses on a tray, and placed them on a table. 

"Help yourself," he said. "Do you like it with soda or plain water 
or how?" 

"Why any way you do," the other youth stammered. "Aren't you 
going to drink ? I don't want to, unless you do." 

"Ace," said Starwick again, "I'll drink with you. I like the soda," he 
added, and poured a drink for himself and filled it with the siphon. 
"Go on. Pour your own. . . . Look," he said abruptly again, as the other 
youth was awkwardly manipulating the unaccustomed siphon. "Do you 
mind if I drink mine while I'm shaving? I just came in. I'd like to 
shave and change my shirt before we go out. Do you mind?" 

"No, of course not," the other said, grateful for the respite thus af- 
forded. "Go ahead. Take all the time you like. I'll drink my drink and 
have a look at your books, if you don't mind." 

"Please do," said Starwick, "if you find anything you like. I think 
this is the best chair." He pushed a big chair up beneath a reading lamp 
and switched the light on. "There are cigarettes on the table," he said 
in his strange mannered tone, and went into the bathroom, where, after 
a moment's inspection of his ruddy face, he immediately began to lather 
himself and to prepare for shaving. 

"This is a nice place you have here," the visitor said presently, after 
another awkward pause, during which the only sound was the minute 
scrape of the razor blade on Starwick's face. 

"Quite," he answered concisely, in his mannered tone, and with that 
blurred sound of people who try to talk while they are shaving. For a 
few moments the razor scraped on. "I'm glad you like it," Starwick said 
presently, as he put the razor down and began to inspect his work in the 


mirror. "And What kind of place did you find for vourself ? Do you 
like it?" 

"Well, it will do, I guess," the other boy said dubiously. "Of course, 
it's nothing like thisit's not an apartment; it's just a room I rented." 

"Ace," said Star wick from the bathroom. "And where is that?" 

"It's on a street called Buckingham Road. Do you know where that is ?" 

"Oh," said Starwick coldly, and he craned carefully with his neck, and 
was silent a moment as he did a little delicate razor-work around the 
Adam's apple. "Ace," he said at length as he put the razor down again. 
"I think I do. ... And how did you happen to go out there?" he in- 
quired coldly as he began to dry his face on a towel. "Did some one tell 
you about the place?" 

"Well yes. I knew about it before I came. It's a room in a house that 
some people I know have rented." 

"Oh," said Starwick coldly, formally again, as he thrust his arms into 
a fresh shirt. "Then you do know people here in Cambridge?" 

"Well, no: they are really people from home." 


"Yes from my own state, the place I came from, where I went to 
school before I came here." 

"Oh," said Starwick, buttoning his shirt, "I see. And where was that? 
What state are you from ?" 


"Oh. . . . And you went to school down there?" 

"Yes. To the State University." 

"I see. . . . And these people who have the house where you are 
living now what are they doing here?" 

"Well, the man he's a professor at the State University down there 
he's up here getting some sort of degree in education." 

"In what?" 

"In education." 

"Oh. I see. . . . And what does his wife do; has he got a wife? 

"Yes; and three children. . . . Well," the other youth said uncertainly, 
and then laughed suddenly, "I haven't seen her do anything yet but sit 
on her tail and talk." 

"Ace?" said Starwick, knotting his tie very carefully. "And what does 
she talk about?" 

"Of people back home, mostly the professors at the University, and 
their wives and families." 


"Oh," said Starwick gravely, but there was now lurkirig in his voice an 
indefinable drollery of humor. "And does she say nice things about 
ihem?" He looked out towards his guest with a grave face, but a sly 
burble in his voice now escaped him and broke out in an infectious 
chuckling laugh. "Or is she " for a moment he was silent, trembling 
a little with secret merriment, and his pleasant face reddened with laugh- 
ter -"or is she," he said with sly insinuation "bitter?" 

The other, somehow conquered by the sly yet broad and vulgar humor 
in Starwick's tone, broke out into a loud guffaw, and said: 

"God! she's bitter and nothing but! That's just the word for it." 

"Has any one escaped yet?" said Starwick slyly. 

"Not a damned one of them," the other roared. "She's worked her 
way from the President and his family all the way down to the instruc- 
tors. Now she's started on the people of the town. I've heard about 
every miscarriage and every dirty pair of drawers that ever happened 
there. We've got a bet on, a friend of mine from home who's also staying 
there he's in the Law School whether she's going to say anything good 
about any one before the year is over." 

"And which side have you?" said Starwick. 

"I say she won't but Billy Ingram says she will. He says that the last 
time she said anything good about any one was when some one died 
during the influenza epidemic in 1917; and he claims she's due again." 

"And what is the lady's name?" said Starwick. He had now come out 
into the living room and was putting on his coat. 

"Trotter," the other said, feeling a strange convulsive humor swelling 
in him. "Mrs. Trotter." 

"What?" said Starwick, his face reddening and the sly burble appear- 
ing in his voice again. "Mrs. who?" 

"Mrs. Trotter!" the other choked, and the room rang suddenly with 
their wild laughter. When it had subsided, Starwick blew his nose vigor- 
ously, and his pleasant face still reddened with laughter, he asked 
smoothly : 

"And what does Professor Trotter say while this is going on?" 

"He doesn't say anything," the other laughed. "He can't say any. 
thing. He just sits there and listens. . . . The man's all right. Billy and 
I feel sorry for him. He's got this damned old shrew of a wife who sits 
there talking ninety to the minute, and three of the meanest, dirtiest, 
noisiest little devils you ever saw falling over his feet and raising hell 
from morning to night, and this sloppy nigger wench they brought up 


with them from the South the place looks like an earthquake hit it, and 
the poor devil is up here trying to study for a degree it's pretty hard on 
him. He's a nice fellow, and he doesn't deserve it." 

"God!" said Starwick frankly and gravely, "but it sounds dreary! 
Why did you ever go to such a place ?" 

"Well, you see, I didn't know any one in Cambridge and I had 
known these people back home." 

"I should think that would have made you anxious to avoid them," 
Starwick answered. "And it's most important that you have a pleasant 
place to work in. It really is, you know," he said earnestly and with a 
note of reproof in his mannered tone. "You really should be more careful 
about that," he said. 

"Yes, I suppose it is. You certainly have a good place here." 

"Ace," said Starwick. "It is very pleasant. I'm glad you like it." 

He came out, with his drink in his hand, put the drink down on a 
table and sat down beside it, crossing his legs and reaching for one of the 
straw-tipped cigarettes in a small and curiously carved wooden box. 
The impression he made on the other youth was one of magnificence 
and luxury. The boy's rooms seemed to fit his sensuous and elegant 
personality like a glove: he was only twenty-two years old but his dis- 
tinctive and incomparable quality was everywhere about him in these 
two rooms. 

To the unaccustomed eyes of the younger boy, these modest rooms 
seemed to be the most magnificent apartment he had seen. For a 
moment he thought that Starwick must be an immensely wealthy person 
to live in such a way. The fact that a man so young should live in such 
splendid and luxurious independence that he should "have his own 
place," an apartment of his own, instead of a rented room, the thrilling 
solitudes of midnight privacy to himself, the freedom to come and go as 
he pleased, to do as he wished, to invite to his place whoever he chose, 
"to bring a girl there" whenever he wanted, without fear or the need for 
stealth all these simple things which are just part of the grand and 
hopeful joy of youth, which the younger boy had never known, but to 
which he had aspired, as every youth aspires, in many a thrilling fantasy 
now made Starwick's life seem almost impossibly fortunate, happy 
and exciting. 

And yet it was not merely his own inexperience that made Starwick 
seem so wealthy. Starwick, although he had no regular income save a 
thousand dollars a year which he received for his work as Professor 


Hatcher's assistant, and small sums he got from time to time from his 
family he was, incredibly enough, the youngest of a middle-western 
family of nine children, small business and farming people in modest 
circumstances gave the impression of wealth because he really was a 
wealthy person: he had been born wealthy, endowed with wealth by 
nature. In everything he did and said and was, in all he touched, in thf 
whole quality of his rare and sensuous personality there was an opulence 
of wealth and luxury such as could not be found in a hundred million- 
aires. He had that rare and priceless quality that is seldom found in any 
one, and almost never in Americans, of being able to give to any simple 
act or incident a glamour of luxury, pleasure, excitement. Thus, when 
he smoked a cigarette, or drank a drink, or invited some one to go with 
him to the theatre, or ordered a meal in a shabby Italian restaurant, or 
made coffee in his rooms, or talked of something he had read in a book, 
or tied his neck-tie all these things had a rare, wonderful and thrilling 
quality in them that the richest millionaire in the world could not have 
bought for money. And for this reason, people were instantly captivated 
by the infinite grace and persuasiveness of Starwick's personality: he had 
the power, as few people in the world have ever had the power, instantly 
to conquer and command the devotion of people because, while they 
were with him, everything in the world took on a freshness, wonder, joy 
and opulence it had never had before, and for this reason people wanted 
to be near him, to live in this thrilling enhancement that he gave to 

Even as he sat there smoking, drinking and talking with his guest, he 
did a simple and characteristic thing that yet seemed wonderful and 
thrilling to the other boy. 

"Look," said Starwick suddenly, getting up, going over to one of his 
bookshelves and switching on a light. "Look," he said again, in his 
strangely fibred voice, "did you ever read this?" 

As he uttered these words he took a book from one of the shelves and 
put on his spectacles. There was something strange and wonderful 
about the spectacles, and in the way he put them on, quietly, severely, 
plainly; the spectacles had thick old-fashioned silver rims, and silver 
handles. Their plain, honest and old-fashioned sobriety was somehow 
remarkable, and as he put them on, with a patient and quiet movement, 
and turned his attention to the pages of the book, the gravity and maturity 
of quiet and lonely thought in the boy's face and head was remarkably 


"Did you ever read this?" he said quietly, turning to the other youth, 
said handing him the book. It was a copy of George Moore's Confessions 
of a Young Man: the other replied he had not read it. 

"Then," said Starwick, "why don't you take it along with you? It's 
really quite amusing." He switched off the light above the book shelves, 
took off his glasses with a quiet tired movement, and folding them and 
putting them in his breast pocket, came back to the table and sat down. 

"I think it may interest you," he said. 

Alhough the other boy had always felt an instinctive repulsion towards 
books which some one else urged him to read, something in Starwick's 
simple act had suddenly given the book a strange rare value: he felt a 
strange and pleasurable excitement when he thought about it, and was 
instantly eager and curious to read it. Moreover, in an indefinable way, 
he had understood the moment that Starwick turned to him, that he was 
giving, and not lending him the book; and this act, too, instantly was 
invested with a princely and generous opulence. It was this way with 
everything that Starwick did: everything he touched would come in- 
stantly to life with grace and joy; his was an incomparable, an enslaving 
power a Midas-gift of life and joy almost too fortunate and effortless 
for one man to possess and in the end like all his other gifts of life and 
joy, a power that would serve death, not life, that would spread corrup- 
tion instead of health, and that finally would turn upon its owner and 
destroy him. 

Later, when they left his rooms and went out on the street, the sensuous 
quickening of life, the vital excitement and anticipation which Starwick 
was somehow able to convey to everything he did and give to every one 
he knew and liked, was constantly apparent. It was a fine clear night in 
early October, crispness and an indefinable smell of smoke were in the 
air, students were coming briskly along the street, singly or in groups of 
two or three, light glowed warmly in the windows of the book-shops, 
pharmacies, and tobacco stores near Harvard Square, and from the enor- 
mous library and the old buildings in the Harvard Yard there came a 
glow of lights, soft, rich, densely golden, embedded in old red brick. 

All of these things, vital, exciting, strangely, pleasurably stirring as they 
were, gained a curious enhancement from Starwick's presence until they 
gave to the younger boy not only a feeling of sharp, mounting, strangely 
indefinable excitement, but a feeling of power and wealth a sense of 
being triumphant and having before him the whole golden and un- 
visited plantation of the world to explore, possess and do with as he 


would the most fortunate and happy life that any man had ever known. 

Starwick went into a tobacco shop to cash a check and the whole place, 
with its pungent smells of good tobacco, its idling students, its atmo* 
phere of leisure and enjoyment, became incomparably wealthy, rich, ex- 
citing as it had never been before. 

And later, when the two young men had gone into the Cock Horse 
Tavern on Brattle Street, the prim and clean little rooms of the old 
house, the clean starched waitresses and snowy table cloth, the good food, 
and several healthy and attractive-looking girls of the New England type 
all gained an increased value. He felt a thrill of pleasurable anticipation 
and a feeling of unlimited wealth, simply because Starwick was there 
ordering the meal, conferring on everything around him the sense of 
wealth and ease and nameless joy which his wonderful personality with 
its magic touch instantly gave to anything on earth. 

Yet during the meal the feeling of hostile constraint between the two 
young men was not diminished, but grew constantly. Starwick's im- 
peccable cold courtesy really the armor of a desperately shy person 
his mannered tone, with its strange and disturbing accent, the surgical 
precision of his cross-examination into the origin, experience, and train* 
ing of the other youth sharpened a growing antagonism in the other's 
spirit, and put him on his guard. Moreover, failure to give any informa- 
tion about himself above all his complete reticence concerning his 
association with Professor Hatcher and the reason for his curt and 
brusquely-worded invitation to dinner all this began to bear now 
with oppressive weight upon the other's spirit. It seemed to him there 
was a deliberate arrogance in this cold reticence. He began to feel a sul- 
len resentment because of this secretive and mysterious conduct. And 
later that evening when the two young men parted, the manner of each 
of them was cold and formal. They bowed stiffly, shook hands with each 
other coldly, and marched away. It was several months before the 
younger would again talk to Starwick, and during that period he 
thought of him with a feeling of resentment, almost o^ dislike. 


THAT first impact of the city had stunned him with its huge and in- 
stant shock, and now, like a swimmer whelmed in a raging storm, he 
sought desperately among that unceasing flood of faces for one that he 
knew, one that he could call his own, and suddenly he thought o 


Uncle Bascom. When his mother had told him he should go to see his 
uncle and his family as soon as he could he had nodded his head me- 
chanically and muttered a few words of perfunctory assent, but so busy 
were his mind and heart with his shining vision of the city and all the 
magic he was sure to find there that it had never seriously occurred to 
him that he would turn eagerly to the old man for companionship and 

But now, the day after his arrival in the city, he found himself pawing 
eagerly through the pages of the phone book for his uncle's business 
address: he found it the familiar words, "Bascom Pentland" stared up 
out of the crowded page with a kind of unreal shocking incandescence, 
and in another moment he heard himself speaking across the wire to 
a puzzled voice that came to him with its curious and unearthly remote- 
ness as if from some planetary distance and suddenly the howling rec- 
ognition of the words words whose unearthly quality now came back 
to him in a searing flash of memory, although he had not heard his 
uncle's voice for eight years, when he was twelve years old : 

"Oh, hello! hello! hello!" that unearthly voice howled faintly at him. 
"How are you, my boy, how are you, how are you, how are you! . . . 
And say!" the voice yelled with a sudden comical transition to matter- 
of-factness "I had a letter from your mother just this morning. She told 
me you were on your way. . . . I've been expecting you." 

"Can I come over to see you now, Uncle Bascom?" 

"Oh, by all means, by all means, by all means!" that unearthly and 
passionate voice howled back at once enthusiastically. "Come over at 
once, my boy, at once! Oh, by all means, by all means, by all means! . . . 
And now, my boy!" the voice became faintly and comically precise, and 
he could hear his uncle smacking his large rubbery lips with pedantical 
relish as he pronounced the words: "Know-ing you are a young man 
alone in this great city for the first time, I shall give you a few brief and, 
I trust, reasonably clear, di-rections," again Bascom smacked his lips 
with audible relish as he pronounced this lovely word "concerning 
your i-tin-er-ary" his joy as he smacked his lips over this last word wan 
almost indecently evident, and he went on with meticulous elaboration 
through a bewildering labyrinth of instructions until even he was satis- 
fied at the confusion he had caused. Then he said goodbye, upon the 
assurance of his nephew that he would come at once. And it was in this 
way, after eight years of absence, that the boy again met his uncle. 

He found the old man hardly changed at all. He was, indeed, a rnem* 


her of that race of men who scarcely vary by a jot from one decade to 
another; he was a trifle grayer, the stringy gauntness of his tall stooped 
frame was perhaps a little more pronounced, his eccentric tricks of 
speech and manner a little more emphatic but this was all. In dress, 
speech, manner and appearance he was to an amazing degree the same 
as he had been the last time that his nephew saw him. 

It is doubtful, in fact, if he had changed appreciably in thirty years. 
And certainly during the first twenty-five years of this century, business 
people who had their offices in or near State Street, Boston, and who had 
grown very familiar with that cadaverous and extraordinary figure, 
could have testified that he had not changed at all. His daily appearances, 
indeed, had become so much a part of the established process of events in 
that crowded street, that they had attained a kind of ritualistic dignity, 
and any serious alteration in their pattern would have seemed to hun- 
dreds of people to whom his gaunt bowed figure had become familiar, al- 
most to constitute a serious disruption of the natural order. 

Shortly before nine o'clock of every working-day he would emerge 
from a subway exit near the head of the street and pause vaguely for a 
moment, making a craggy eddy in the tide of issuing workers that 
foamed swiftly about him while he stood with his enormous bony hands 
clutched comically before him at the waist, as if holding himself in, at 
the same time making the most horrible grimaces with his lean and 
amazingly flexible features. These grimaces were made by squinting 
his small sharp eyes together, widening his mouth in a ghastly travesty 
of a grin, and convolving his chin and cheek in a rapid series of pursed 
lips and horrible squints as he swiftly pressed his rubbery underlip 
against a few enormous horse teeth that decorated his upper jaw. Hav- 
ing completed these facial evolutions, he glanced quickly and, it must 
be supposed, blindly, in every direction; for he then plunged heed- 
lessly across the street, sometimes choosing the moment when traffic 
had been halted, and pedestrians were hurrying across, sometimes 
diving into the midst of a roaring chaos of motor cars, trucks, and 
wagons, through which he sometimes made his way in safety, accom- 
panied only by a scream of brake bands, a startled barking of horns, 
and the hearty curses of frightened drivers, or from which, howling 
with terror in the centre of a web of traffic which he had snarled hope- 
lessly and brought to a complete standstill, he was sometimes rescued 
by a red-faced and cursing young Irishman who was on point duty at 
that corner. 


But Bascom was a fated man and he escaped. Once, it is true, a bright 
mindless beetle of machinery, which had no thought for fated men, had 
knocked him down and skinned and bruised him; again, an unin- 
structed wheel had passed across the soft toe-end of his shoe and held 
him prisoner, as if he were merely some average son of destiny but he 
escaped. He escaped because he was a fated man and because the prov- 
idence which guides the steps of children and the blind was kind to 
him; and because this same policeman whose simian upper lip had once 
been thick and twisted with its curses had long since run the scale from 
anger to wild fury, and thence to madness and despair and resignation, 
and had now come to have a motherly affection for this stray sheep, kept 
his eye peeled for its appearance every morning or, failing this, at once 
shrilled hard upon his whistle when he heard the well-known howl of 
terror and surprise, plunged to the centre of the stalled traffic snarl, 
plucked Bascom out to safety under curse and shout and scream of brake, 
and marched him tenderly to the curb, gripping his brawny hand around 
the old man's arm, feeling his joints, testing his bones, massaging anx- 
iously his sinewy carcass, and calling him "bud" although Bascom was 
old enough to be his grandfather. "Are you all right, bud ? You're not 
hurt, are you, bud ? Are you O. K. ?" to which Bascom, if his shock and 
terror had been great, could make no answer for a moment save to pant 
hoarsely and to howl loudly and huskilv from time to time "Ow! Ow! 
Ow! Ow!" 

At length, becoming more coherent, if not more calm, he would launch 
into an ecclesiastical indictment of motor cars and their drivers delivered 
in a high, howling, and husky voice that suggested the pronouncements 
of a prophet from a mountain. This voice had a quality of strange re- 
moteness and, once heard, would never be forgotten. It actually had a 
howling note in it, and carried to great distances, and yet it was not loud: 
it was very much as if Mr. Bascom Pentland were standing on a moun- 
tain and shouting to some one in a quiet valley below the sounds came 
to one plainly but as if from a great distance, and it was full of a husky, 
unearthly passion. It was really an ecclesiastical voice, the voice of a 
great preacher; one felt that it should be heard in churches, which was 
exactly where it once was heard, for Bascom had at various times and 
with great conviction, in the course of his long and remarkable life, 
professed and preached the faith of the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, 
the Methodists, the Baptists, and the Unitarians. 

Quite often, in fact, as now, when he had narrowly escaped disaster 


in the streets, Bascom still preached from the corner : as soon as ne recov- 
ered somewhat from his shock, he would launch forth into a sermon of 
eloquent invective against any driver of motor cars within hearing, and 
if any of them entered the fray, as sometimes happened, a very interest- 
ing performance occurred. 

"What happened to you?" the motorist might bitterly remark. "Do 
the keepers know you're out?" 

Mr. Pentland would thereupon retort with an eloquent harangue, be- 
ginning with a few well-chosen quotations from the more violent 
prophets of the Old Testament, a few predictions of death, destruction 
and damnation for the owners of motor cars, and a few apt references 
to Days of Judgment and Reckoning, Chariots of Moloch, and Beasts of 
the Apocalypse. 

"Oh, for God's sake!" the exasperated motorist might reply. "Are you 
blind? Where do you think you are? In a cow-pasture? Can't you read 
the signals? Didn't you see the cop put his hand up? Don't you know 
when it says to 'Stop' or 'Go' ? Did you ever hear of the traffic law ?" 

"The traffic law!" Bascom sneeringly exclaimed, as if the mere use of 
the word by the motorist evoked his profoundest contempt. His voice now 
had a precise and meticulous way of speech, there was something sneering 
and pedantical in the way he pronounced each word, biting it off with a 
prim, nasal and heavily accented enunciation in the manner of certain 
pedants and purists who suggest by their pronunciation that language in 
the mouths of most people is vilely and carelessly treated, that each word 
has a precise, subtle, and careful meaning of its own, and that they 
they alone understand these matters. "The traffic law!" he repeated 
again : then he squinted his eyes together, pursed his rubbery lip against 
the big horsey upper teeth, and laughed down his nose in a forced, sneef- 
ing manner, "The traffic law!" he said. "Why, you pit-i-ful ig-no-raw-us! 
You il-///-ter-ate ruffian! You dare to speak to me to me!" he howled 
suddenly with an ecclesiastical lift of his voice, striking himself on his 
bony breast and glaring with a majestical fury as if the word of a mighty 
prophet had been contradicted by an upstart "of the traffic law, when 
it is doubtful if you could read the law if you saw it," he sneered "and 
it is obvious to any one with the perception of a school-boy that you 
would not have intelligence enough to understand it, and" here his 
voice rose to a howling emphasis and he held one huge bony finger up to 
command attention "an d to interpret it, if you could read." 

"Is that so!" the motorist heavily remarked. "A wise guy, eh? One of 


these guys who knows it all, eh? You're a pretty wise guy, aren't you?" 
the motorist continued bitterly, as if caught up in the circle of his refrain 
and unable to change it. "Well, let me tell you something. You think 
you're pretty smaht, don't you ? Well, you're not. See ? It's wise guys 
like you who go around looking for a good bust on the nose. See ? That's 
how smaht you are. If you wasn't an old guy I'd give you one, too," he 
said, getting a moody satisfaction from the thought. 

"Ow-w! Ow-w! Ow-w!" Bascom howled in sudden terror. 

"If you know so much, if you're so smaht as you think you are, what 
is the traffic law?" 

Then, assuredly, if there was a traffic law, the unfortunate motorist 
was lost, for Uncle Bascom would deliver it to him verbatim, licking 
his lips with joy over all the technicalities of legal phrasing and pronounc- 
ing each phrase with a meticulous and pedantical enunciation. 

"And furthermore!" he howled, holding up his big bony finger, "the 
Commonwealth of Massachusetts has decreed, by a statute that has been 
on the books since 1856, by a statute that is irrevocably, inexorably, in- 
luctably plain that any driver, director, governor, commander, manager, 
agent or conductor, or any other person who shall conduct or cause to 
be conducted any vehicular instrument, whether it be of two, four, six, 
eight or any number of wheels whatsoever, whether it be in the public 
service, or in the possession, of a private individual, whether it be " but 
by this time, the motorist, if he was wise, had had enough, and had 

If, however, it had been one of his more fortunate mornings, if he had 
blindly but successfully threaded the peril of roaring traffic, Uncle 
Bascom proceeded rapidly down State Street, still clutching his raw bony 
hands across his meagre waist, still contorting his remarkable face in its 
endless series of pursed grimaces, and presently turned in to the entrance 
of a large somewhat dingy-looking building of blackened stone, one of 
those solid, unpretentious, but very valuable properties which smell and 
look like the early 1900'$, and which belong to that ancient and enor- 
mously wealthy corporation across the river known as Harvard Uni- 

Here, Uncle Bascom, still clutching himself together across the waist, 
mounted a flight of indented marble entry steps, lunged through re- 
volving doors into a large marble corridor that was redolent with 
vibrating waves of hot steamy air, wet rubbers and galoshes, sanitary 
disinfectant, and serviceable but somewhat old-fashioned elevators and, 


entering one of the cars which had just plunged down abruptly, banged 
open its door, belched out two or three people and swallowed a dozen 
more, he was finally deposited with the same abruptness on the seventh 
floor, where he stepped out into a wide dark corridor, squinted and 
grimaced uncertainly to right and left as he had done for twenty-five 
years, and then went left along the corridor, past rows of lighted offices 
in which one could hear the preliminary clicking of typewriters, the rat- 
tling of crisp papers, and the sounds of people beginning their day's 
work. At the end of the corridor Bascom Pentland turned right along 
another corridor and at length paused before a door which bore this 
inscription across the familiar glazed glass of American business offices: 
The John T. Brill Realty Co. Houses For Rent or Sale. Below this 
bold legend in much smaller letters was printed: Bascom Pentland 
Att'y at Law Conveyancer and Title Expert. 

The appearance of this strange figure in State Street, or anywhere 
else, had always been sufficient to attract attention and to draw com- 
ment. Bascom Pentland, if he had straightened to his full height, 
would have been six feet and three or four inches tall, but he had 
always walked with a stoop and as he grew older, the stoop had be- 
come confirmed: he presented a tall, gnarled, bony figure, cadaverous 
and stringy, but tough as hickory. He was of that race of men who seem 
never to wear out, or to grow old, or to die: they live with almost un- 
diminished vitality to great ages, and when they die they die suddenly. 
There is no slow wastage and decay because there is so little to waste or 
decay: their mummied and stringy flesh has the durability of granite. 

Bascom Pentland clothed his angular figure with an assortment of odd 
garments which seemed to have the same durability: they were im- 
mensely old and worn, but they also gave no signs of ever wearing out, 
for by their cut and general appearance of age, it seemed that his frugal 
soul had selected in the 'nineties materials which it hoped would last 
forever. His coat, which was originally of a dark dull pepper-and-salt 
gray, had gone green at the seams and pockets, and moreover it was a 
ridiculously short skimpy coat for a gaunt big-boned man like this: it 
was hardly more than a jacket, his great wristy hands burst out of it likd 
lengths of cordwood, and the mark of his high humped narrow shoul- 
ders cut into it with a knife-like sharpness. His trousers were also tight 
and skimpy, of a lighter gray and of a rough woolly texture from which 
all fuzz and flufl had long ago been rubbed; he wore rough country 
brogans with raw-hide laces, and a funny little flat hat of ancient black 


felt, which had also gone green along the band. One understands now 
why the policeman called him "Bud": this great bony figure seemed 
ruthlessly to have been crammed into garments in which a country 
fledgling of the 'eighties might have gone to see his girl, clutching a bag 
o gumdrops in his large red hand. A stringy little necktie, a clean 
but dilapidated collar which by its bluish and softly mottled look Bas- 
com Pentland must have laundered himself (a presumption which is 
quite correct since the old man did all his own laundry work, as well as 
his mending, repairing, and cobbling) this was his costume, winter 
and summer, and it never changed, save that in winter he supplemented 
it with an ancient blue sweater which he wore, buttoned to the chin and 
whose frayed ends and cuffs projected inches below the scanty little 
jacket. He had never been known to wear an overcoat, not even on 
the coldest days of those long, raw, and formidable winters which Bos- 
ton suffers. 

The mark of his madness was plain upon him : intuitively men knew 
he was not a poor man, and the people who had seen him so many 
times in State Street would nudge one another, saying: "You see that 
old guy ? You'd think he was waitin' for a handout from the Salvation 
Army, wouldn't you ? Well, he's not. He's got it, brother. Believe me, 
ae's got it good and plenty: he's got it salted away where no one ain't 
goin' to touch it. That guy's got a sock full of dough!" 

"Jesus!" another remarks. "What good's it goin' to do an old guy like 
that? He can't take any of it with him, can he?" 

"You said it, brother," and the conversation would become philo- 

Bascom Pentland was himself conscious of his parsimony, and al- 
though he sometimes asserted that he was "only a poor man" he realized 
that his exaggerated economies could not be justified to his business asso- 
ciates on account of poverty: they taunted him slyly, saying, "Come on, 
Pentland, let's go to lunch. You can get a good meal at the Pahkeh 
House for a couple of bucks." Or "Say, Pentland, I know a place where 
they're havin' a sale of winter overcoats: I saw one there that would just 
suit you you can get it for sixty dollars." Or "Do you need a good 
laundry, Reverend? I know a couple of Chinks who do good work." 

To which Bascom, with the characteristic evasiveness ol parsimony, 
would reply, snuffling derisively down his nose: "No, sir! You won't 
catch me in any of their stinking restaurants. You never know what 
you're getting: if you could see the dirty, nasty, filthy kitchens where 


your food is prepared you'd lose your appetite quick enough." His 
parsimony had resulted in a compensating food mania: he declared that 
"in his young days" he "ruined his digestion by eating in restaurants," 
he painted the most revolting pictures of the filth of these establish- 
ments, laughing scornfully down his nose as he declared : "I suppose you 
think it tastes better after some dirty, nasty, stinking nigger has wiped 
his old hands all over it" (phuh-phuh-phuh-phuh-phuh!) here he 
would contort his face and snuffle scornfully down his nose; and he 
was bitter in his denunciation of "rich foods," declaring they had 
"destroyed more lives than all the wars and all the armies since the 
beginning of time." 

As he had grown older he had become more and more convinced of 
the healthy purity of "raw foods," and he prepared for himself at home 
raw revolting messes of chopped-up carrots, onions, turnips, even raw 
potatoes, which he devoured at table, smacking his lips with an air of 
keen relish, and declaring to his wife: "You may poison yourself on 
your old roasts and oysters and turkeys if you please : you wouldn't catch 
me eating that stuff. No, sir! Not on your life! I think too much of my 
stomach!" But his use of the pronoun "you* was here universal rather 
than particular because if that lady's longevity had depended on her ab- 
stinence from "roasts and oysters and turkeys" there was no reason 
why she should not have lived forever. 

Or again, if it were a matter of clothing, a matter of fencing in his 
bones and tallows against the frozen nail of Boston winter, he would 
howl derisively: "An overcoat! Not on your life! I wouldn't give two 
cents for all the old overcoats in the world! The only thing they're good 
for is to gather up germs and give you colds and pneumonia. I haven't 
worn an overcoat in thirty years, and I've never had the vestige no! not 
the semblance of a cold during all that time!" an assertion that was 
not strictly accurate since he always complained bitterly of at least two 
or three during the course of a single winter, declaring at those times 
that no more hateful, treacherous, damnable climate than that of Boston 
had ever been known. 

Similarly, if it were a question of laundries he would scornfully de- 
clare that he would not send "his shirts and collars to let some dirty old 
Chinaman spit and hoct{ upon them yes!" he would gleefully howl, as 
some new abomination of nastiness suggested itself to his teeming 
brain "yes! and iron it in, too, so you can walk around done up 
in old Chinaman's spit!" (Phuh-phuh-phuh-phuh-phuh!) here he 


would grimace, contort his rubbery lip, and laugh down his nose in 
forced snarls of gratification and triumph. 

This was the old man who, even now, as his nephew sped to meet 
him, stood in his dusty little office clutching his raw and bony hands 
across his waist. 

In spite of the bewildering elaboration of his uncle's direction, the 
boy found his offices without much trouble. He went in and a mo- 
ment later, his hand was being vigorously pumped by his uncle's great 
stiff paw, and he heard that instant howling voice of welcome the 
voice of a prophet calling from the mountain tops coming to him 
without preliminary or introduction, as he had heard it last eight 
years before. 

"Oh, hello, hello, hello. . . . How are you, how are you, how are you. 
. . . say!" his uncle turned abruptly and in a high howling tone ad- 
dressed several people who were staring at the young man curiously, 
"I want you all to meet my sister's youngest son my nephew, Mr. 
Eugene Gant . . . and say!" he bawled again, but in remoter tone, in a 
strangely confiding and insinuating tone "would you know he was 
a Pentland by the look of him? . . . Can you see the family resem- 
blance?" He smacked his rubbery lips together with an air of relish, and 
suddenly threw his great gaunt arms up and let them fall with an air 
of ecstatic jubilation, squinted his small sharp eyes together, contorted 
his rubbery lips in their amazing and grotesque grimace, and stamp- 
ing ecstatically at the floor with one long stringy leg, taking random 
ecstatic kicks at any object that was within reach, he began to snuffle 
with his strange forced laughter, and howled deliriously, "Oh, my yes! 
. . . The thing is evident. . . . He is a Pentland beyond the shadow of a 
vestige of a doubt! . . . Oh, by all means, by all means, by all means!" 
and he went on snuffling, stamping, howling, and kicking at random 
objects in this way until the strange seizure of his mirth had somewhat 
subsided. Then, more quietly, he introduced his nephew to his associ- 
ates in the curious business of which he was a partner. 

And it was in this way that the boy first met the people in his uncle's 
office an office and people who were, during the years that followed, 
and in the course of hundreds of visits, to become a part of the fabric of 
his life so hauntingly real, so strangely familiar that in the years that 
followed he could forget none of them, remember everything just as it 

These offices, which he saw for the first time that day, were composed 


of two rooms, one in front and one behind, L-shaped, and set in the el- 
bow of the building, so that one might look out at the two projecting 
wings of the building, and see lighted layers of offices, in which the ac- 
tors of a dozen enterprises "took" dictation, clattered at typewriters, 
walked back and forth importantly, talked into telephones or, what 
they did with amazing frequency, folded their palms behind their skulls, 
placed their feet restfully on the nearest solid object, and gazed for long 
periods dreamily and tenderly at the ceilings. 

Through the broad and usually very dirty panes of the window in the 
front office one could catch a glimpse of Faneuil Hall and the magnifi- 
cent and exultant activity of the markets. 

These dingy offices, however, from which a corner of this rich move- 
ment might be seen and felt, were merely the unlovely counterpart of 
millions of others throughout the country and, in the telling phrase of 
Baedeker, offered "little that need detain the tourist": a few chairs, two 
scarred roll-top desks, a typist's table, a battered safe with a pile of 
thumb-worn ledgers on top of it, a set of green filing cases, an enormous 
green, greasy water-jar always half filled with a rusty liquid that no one 
drank, and two spittoons, put there because Brill was a man who chewed 
and spat widely in all directions this, save for placards, each bearing 
several photographs of houses with their prices written below them 8 
rooms, Dorchester, $6500; 5 rooms and garage, Melrose, $4500, etc. 
completed the furniture of the room, and the second room, save for the 
disposition of objects, was similarly adorned. 

Such then was the scene in which the old man and his nephew met 
again after a separation of eight years. 


THE youth was drowned in the deepest sea an atom bombarded, 
ignorant of all defense in a tumultuous world. The shell of custom, the 
easy thoughtless life which had sucked pleasure from the world about, 
these four years past, crumbled like caked mud. He was nothing, no- 
body there was no heart or bravery left in him; he was conscious of 
unfathomable ignorance the beginning, as Socrates suggested, of wis- 
dom he was lost. 

He had wanted to cut a figure in the world he had simply never 


imagined the number of people that were in it. And like most people 
who hug loneliness to them like a lover, the need of occasional com- 
panionship, forever tender and forever true, which might be summoned 
or dismissed at will, cut through him like a sword. 

There was, of course, among the members of the play-writing class an 
energetic and calculated sociability. The supposed advantages of dis 
cussion with one another, the interplay of wit, and so on, above all what 
was called "the exchange of ideas," but what most often was merely the 
exchange of other people's ideas, all these were mentioned often; they 
were held in the highest esteem as one of the chief benefits to be derived 
from the course. 

Manifestly, one could write anywhere. But where else could one write 
with around one the constant stimulus of other people who also wrote ? 
Where could one learn one's faults so well as before a critical and serious 
congress of artists? They were content with it they got what they 
wanted. But the lack of warmth, the absence of inner radial heat which, 
not being fundamental in the structure of their lives, had never been 
wanted, filled him with horror and impotent fury. 

The critical sense had stirred in him hardly at all, the idea of ques- 
tioning authority and position had not occurred to him. 

He was facing one of the oldest what, for the creative mind, must 
be one of the most painful problems of the spirit the search for a 
standard of taste. He had, at seventeen, as a sophomore, triumphantly 
denied God, but he was unable now to deny Robert Browning. It had 
never occurred to him that there was a single authoritatively beautiful 
thing in the world that might not be agreed on, by a community of all 
the enlightened spirits of the universe, as beautiful. Every one, of 
course, fyiew that King Lear was one of the greatest plays that had ever 
been written. Only, he was beginning to find, every one didn't. 

And now for the first time he began to worry about being "modern." 
He had the great fear young people have that they will not be a part of 
the most advanced literary and artistic movements of the time. Several 
of the young men he knew had contributed stories, poems, and criticisms 
to little reviews, published by and for small groups of literary adepts. 
They disposed of most of the established figures with a few well-chosen 
words of contempt, and they replaced these figures with obscure names 
of their own who, they assured him, were the important people of the 

For the first time, he heard the word "Mid-Victorian" applied as a term 


of opprobrium. What its implications were he had no idea. Stevenson, 
too, to him hardly more than a writer of books for boys, books that he had 
read as a child with interest and delight, was a symbol of some vague, but 
monstrously pernicious influence. 

But he discovered at once that to voice any of these questionings was to 
brand oneself in the esteem of the group; intuitively he saw that their 
jargon formed a pattern by which they might be placed and recognized; 
that, to young men most of all, to be placed in a previous discarded pat' 
tern was unendurable disgrace. It represented to them the mark of in- 
tellectual development, just as in a sophomore's philosophy, the belief that 
God is an old man with a long beard brings ridicule and odium upon 
the believer, but the belief that God is an ocean without limit, or an all- 
pervasive and inclusive substance, or some other equally naive and 
extraordinary idea, is regarded as a certain sign of bold enlightenment. 
Thus, it often happens, when one thinks he has extended the limits of 
his life, broken the bonds, and liberated himself in the wider ether, he 
has done no more than to exchange a new superstition for an old one, to 
forsake a beautiful myth for an ugly one. 

The young men in Professor Hatcher's class were sorry for many 
things and many people. 

"Barrie?" began Mr. Scoville, an elegant and wealthy young dawdler 
from Philadelphia, who, by his own confession, had spent most of his 
life in France, "Barrie?" he continued regretfully, in answer to a ques- 
tion. For a moment, he drew deeply on his cigarette, then raised sad, 
languid eyes. "I'm sorry," he said gently, with a slight regretful move- 
ment of his head "I can't read him. I've tried it but it simply can't 
be done." They laughed, greatly pleased. 

"But it is a pity, you know, a great pity," Francis Starwick remarked 
languidly, using effectively his' trick of giving a tired emphasis to certain 
words which conveyed a kind of sad finality, a weary earnestness to 
what he said. He turned to go. 

"But but but how how how very interesting! Why is it, 
Prank?" Hugh Dodd demanded with his earnest stammering eagerness. 
He was profoundly respectful of Starwick's critical ability. 

"Why is what?" said Starwick in his curiously mannered voice, his 
air of languid weariness. 

"Why is it a great pity about Barrie?" knitting his bushy brows to- 
gether, and scowling with an air of intense concentration over his words 
is he spoke. "Because," said the appraiser of Values, as he prepared to 


depart, arranging with feminine luxuriousness the voluptuous folds of 
his blue silk scarf, "the man really had something one time. He really 
did. Something strange and haunting the genius of the Kelt." Swing- 
ing his cane slowly, acutely and painfully conscious that he was being 
watched, with the agonizing stiffness that was at the bottom of his char- 
acter, he strolled off across the Yard, stark and lovely with the harsh 
white snow and wintry branches of bleak winter. 

"You know you know you know that's very interesting," said 
Dodd, intent upon his words. "I'd I'd I'd never thought of it in just 
that way." 

"Barrie," drawled Wood, the maker of epigrams, "is a stick of taffy, 
floating upon a sea of molasses." 

There was laughter. 

He was forever making these epigrams; his face had a somewhat jatur- 
nine cast, his lips twisted ironically, his eyes shot splintered promises of 
satiric wisdom. He looked like a very caustically humorous person; but 
unhappily he had no humor. But they thought he had. No one with a 
face like that could be less than keen. 

So he had something to say for every occasion. He had discovered 
that the manner counted for wit. If the talk was of Shaw's deficiencies 
as a dramatist, he might say: 

"But, after all, if one is going in for all that sort of thing, why not have 
lantern slides and a course of lectures." 

Thus he was known, not merely as a subtle-souled and elusive psy- 
chologist but also as a biting wit. 

"Galsworthy wrote something that looked like a play once," some one 
remarked. "There were parts of Justice that weren't bad." 

"Yes. Yes," said Dodd, peering intently at hi> language. "Justice 
there were some interesting things in that. It's it's it's rather a pity 
about him, isn't it?" And as he said these words he frowned earnestly 
and intently. There was genuine pity in his voice, for the man's spirit 
had great charity and sweetness in it. 

As they dispersed, some one remarked that Shaw might have made a 
dramatist if he had ever known anything about writing a play. 

"But he dates so how he dates!" Scoville remarked. 

"Those earlier plays " 

"Yes, I agree" thus Wood again. "Almost Mid-Victorian. Shaw: a 
prophet with his face turned backwards." Then they went away in small 



To reach his own "office," as Bascom Pentland called the tiny cubicle 
in which he worked and received his clients, the old man had to traverse 
the inner room and open a door in a flimsy partition of varnished wood 
and glazed glass at the other end. This was his office: it was really a 
very narrow slice cut off from the larger room, and in it there was barely 
space for one large dirty window, an ancient dilapidated desk and 
swivel chair, a very small battered safe buried under stacks of yellowed 
newspapers, and a small bookcase with glass doors and two small shelves 
on which there were a few worn volumes. An inspection of these books 
would have revealed four or five tattered and musty law books in their 
ponderous calf-skin bindings one on Contracts, one on Red Property, 
one on Titles a two-volume edition of the poems of Matthew Arnold, 
very dog-eared and thumbed over; a copy of Sartor Resartus, also much 
used; a volume of the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson; the Iliad in 
Greek with minute yellowed notations in the margins; a volume of the 
World Almanac several years old; and a very worn volume of the Holy 
Bible, greatly used and annotated in Bascom's small, stiffly laborious, 
and meticulous hand. 

If the old man was a little late, as sometimes happened, he might find 
his colleagues there before him. Miss Muriel Brill, the typist, and the 
eldest daughter of Mr. John T. Brill, would be seated in her typist's 
chair, her heavy legs crossed as she bent over to undo the metal latches 
of the thick galoshes she wore during the winter season. It is true there 
were also other seasons when Miss Brill did not wear galoshes, but so 
sharply and strongly do our memories connect people with certain ges- 
tures which, often for an inscrutable reason, seem characteristic of them, 
that any frequent visitor to these offices at this time of day would doubt- 
less have remembered Miss Brill as always unfastening her galoshes. 
But the probable reason is that some people inevitably belong to seasons, 
and this girl's season was winter not blizzards or howling winds, or 
the blind skirl and sweep of snow, but gray, grim, raw, thick, implacable 
winter: the endless successions of gray days and gray monotony. There 
was no spark of color in her, her body was somewhat thick and heavy, 
her face was white, dull, and thick-featured and instead of tapering 
downwards, it tapered up: it was small above, and thick and heavy be- 
low, and even in her speech, the words she uttered seemed to have been 


chosen by an automaton, and could only be remembered later by their 
desolate banality. One always remembered her as saying as one en- 
tered: ". . . Hello! . . . You're becoming quite a strangeh! . . . It's been 
some time since you was around, hasn't it ? ... I was thinkin' the otheh 
day it had been some time since you was around. ... I'd begun to think 
you had forgotten us. ... Well, how've you been ? Lookin' the same as 
usual, I see. . . . Me? . . . Oh, can't complain. . Keepin' busy? I'll 
say! I manage to keep goin'. . . . Who you lookin' for? Father? He's 
\n there. ... Why, yeah! Go right on in." 

This was Miss Brill, and at the moment that she bent to unfasten her 
galoshes, it is likely that Mr. Samuel Friedman would also be there in 
the act of rubbing his small dry hands briskly together, or of rubbing the 
back of one hand with the palm of the other in order to induce circula- 
tion. He was a small youngish man, a pale somewhat meagre-looking 
little Jew with a sharp ferret face: he, too, was a person who goes to 
"fill in" those vast swarming masses of people along the pavements and 
in the subway the mind cannot remember them or absorb the details 
of their individual appearance but they people the earth, they make up 
life. Mr. Friedman had none of the richness 1 color, and humor that 
some members of his race so abundantly possess; the succession of gray 
days, the grim weather seemed to have entered his soul as it enters the 
souls of many different races there the Irish, the older New England 
stock, even the Jews and it gives them a common touch that is prim, 
drab, careful, tight and sour. Mr. Friedman also wore galoshes, his 
clothes were neat, drab, a little worn and shiny, there was an odor of 
thawing dampness and ,warm rubber about him as he rubbed his 
dry little hands saying: "Chee! How I hated to leave that good wahm 
bed this morning! When I got up I said, 'Holy Chee!' My wife says, 
'Whatsa mattah?' I says, 'Holy Chee! You step out heah a moment 
where I am an' you'll see whatsa mattah.' 'Is it cold?' she says. 'Is it 
cold! I'll tell the cock-eyed wuhld!' I says. Chee! You could have cut 
the frost with an axe: the wateh in the pitchehs was frozen hahd; an* 
she has the nuhve to ask me if it's cold! 'Is it cold!' I says. 'Do you know 
any more funny stories?' I says. Oh, how I do love my bed! Chee! I 
kept thinkin' of that guy in Braintree I got to go see today an' the more 
I thought about him, the less I liked him! I thought my feet would 
tu'n into two blocks of ice before I got the funniss stahted! 'Chee! I 
hope the ole bus is still workin',' I says 'If I've got to go thaw that 
damned thing out,' I says, 'I'm ready to quit.' Chee! Well, suh, I 


neveh had a bit of trouble: she stahted right up an* the way that ole 
moteh was workin' is nobody's business." 

During the course of this monologue Miss Brill would give ear and 
assent from time to time by the simple interjection: "Uh!" It was a 
sound she uttered frequently, it had somewhat the same meaning as 
"Yes," but it was more non-committal than "Yes." It seemed to render 
assent to the speaker, to let him know that he was being heard and un- 
derstood, but it did not commit the auditor to any opinion, or to any 
real agreement. 

The third member of this office staff, who was likely to be present at 
this time, was a gentleman named Stanley P. Ward. Mr. Stanley P. 
Ward was a neat middling figure of a man, aged fifty or thereabouts; 
he was plump and had a pink tender skin, a trim Vandyke, and a nice 
comfortable little pot of a belly which slipped snugly into the well- 
pressed and well-brushed garments that always fitted him so tidily. 
He was a bit of a fop, and it was at once evident that he was quietly but 
enormously pleased with himself. He carried himself very sprucely, he 
took short rapid steps and his neat little paunch gave his figure a move- 
ment not unlike that of a pouter pigeon. He was usually in quiet but 
excellent spirits, he laughed frequently and a smile rather a subtly 
amused look was generally playing about the edges of his mouth. That 
smile and his laugh made some people vaguely uncomfortable: there 
was a kind of deliberate falseness in them, as if what he really thought 
and felt was not to be shared with other men. He seemed, in fact, to 
have discovered some vital and secret power, some superior knowledge 
and wisdom, from which the rest of mankind was excluded, a sense that 
he was "chosen" above other men, and this impression of Mr. Stanley 
Ward would have been correct, for he was a Christian Scientist, he was 
a pillar of the church, and a very big church at that for Mr. Ward, 
dressed in fashionable striped trousers, rubber soles, and a cut-away coat, 
might be found somewhere under the mighty dome of the Mother 
Church on Huntington Avenue every Sunday suavely, noiselessly, and 
expertly ushering the faithful to their pews. 

This completes the personnel of the first office of the John T. Brill 
Realty Company, and if Bascom Pentland arrived late, if these three 
people were already present, if Mr. Bascom Pentland had not been de- 
frauded of any part of his worldly goods by some contriving rascal of 
whom the world has many, if; his life had not been imperilled by some 
speed maniac, if the damnable New England weather was not too 


damnable, if, in short, Bascom Pentland was in fairly good spirits he 
would on entering immediately howl in a high, rapid, remote and per- 
fectly monotonous tone: "Hello, Hello, Hello! Good-morning, Good- 
morning, Good-morning!" after which be would close his eyes, gri- 
mace horribly, press his rubbery lip against his big horse teeth, and snuffle 
with laughter through his nose, as if pleased by a tremendous stroke of 
wit. At this demonstration the other members of the group would 
glance at one another with those knowing, subtly supercilious nods and 
winks, that look of common self-congratulation and humor with which 
the more "normal" members of society greet the conduct of an eccentric, 
and Mr. Samuel Friedman would say: "What's the mattah with you, 
Pop? You look happy. Some one musta give you a shot in the ahm." 

At which, a coarse powerful voice, deliberate and rich with its intima- 
tion of immense and earthy vulgarity, might roar out of the depth of the 
inner office: "No, I'll tell you what it is." Here the great figure of Mr. 
John T. Brill, the head of the business, would darken the doorway. 
"Don't you know what's wrong with the Reverend? It's that widder 
he's been takin' around." Here, the phlegmy burble that prefaced all of 
Mr. Brill's obscenities would appear in his voice, the shadow of a lewd 
smile would play around the corner of his mouth: "It's the widder. 
She's let him have a little of it." 

At this delicate stroke of humor, the burble would burst open in Mr. 
Brill's great red throat, and he would roar with that high, choking, 
phlegmy laughter that is frequent among big red-faced men. Mr. 
Friedman would laugh drily ("Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh!"), Mr. Stanley 
Ward would laugh more heartily, but complacently, and Miss Brill 
would snicker in a coy and subdued manner as became a modest young 
girl. As for Bascom Pentland, if he was really in a good humor, he 
might snuffle with nosey laughter, bend double at his meagre waist, 
clutching his big hands together, and stamp at the floor violently sev- 
eral times with one stringy leg; he might even go so far as to take a 
random ecstatic kick at objects, still Stamping and snuffling with 
laughter, and prod Miss Brill stiffly with two enormous bony fingers, as 
if he did not wish the full point and flavor of the jest to be lost on her. 

Bascom Pentland, however, was a very complicated person with many 
moods, and if Mr. Brill's fooling did not catch him in a receptive one, 
he might contort his face in a pucker of refined disgust, and mutter his 
disapproval, as he shook his head rapidly from side to side. Or he might 
rise to great heights of moral denunciation, beginning at first in a grave. 


low voice that showed the seriousness of the words he had to utter: "The 
lady to whom you refer," he would begin, "the very charming and cui* 
tivated lady whose name, sir," here his voice would rise on its howling 
note and he would wag his great bony forefinger, "whose name, sir, you 
have so foully traduced and blackened " 

"No, I wasn't, Reverend. I was only tryin' to whiten it," said Mr. 
Brill, beginning to burble with laughter. 

"Whose name, sir, you have so foully traduced and blackened with 
your smutty suggestions," Bascom continued implacably, " that lady 
is known to me, as you very well know, sir," he howled, wagging his 
great finger again, "solely and simply in a professional capacity." 

"Why, hell, Reverend," said Mr. Brill innocently, "I never knew she 
was a perfessional. I thought she was an amatoor." 

At this conclusive stroke, Mr. Brill would make the whole place 
tremble with his laughter, Mr. Friedman would laugh almost noiseless- 
ly, holding himself weakly at the stomach and bending across a desk, 
Mr. Ward would have short bursts and fits of laughter, as he gazed out 
the window, shaking his head deprecatingly from time to time, as if his 
more serious nature disapproved, and Miss Brill would snicker, and 
turn to her machine, remarking: "This conversation is getting too 
rough for me!" 

And Bascom, if this jesting touched his complex soul at one of those 
moments when such profanity shocked him, would walk away, confid- 
ing into vacancy, it seemed, with his powerful and mobile features con- 
torted in the most eloquent expression of disgust and loathing ever seen 
on any face, the while he muttered, in a resonant whisper that shuddered 
with passionate revulsion : "Oh, bad! Oh, bad! Oh, bad, bad, bad!" 
shaking his head slightly from side to side with each word. 

Yet there were other times, when Brill's swingeing vulgarity, the vast 
coarse sweep of his profanity not only found Uncle Bascom in a com- 
pletely receptive mood, but evoked from him gleeful responses, coun- 
ter essays in swearing which he made slyly, craftily, snickering with 
pleasure and squinting around at his listeners at the sound of the words, 
and getting such stimulus from them as might a renegade clergyman 
exulting in a feeling of depravity and abandonment for the first time. 

To the other people in this office that is, to Friedman, Ward, and 
Muriel, the stenographer the old man was always an enigma; at first 
they had observed his peculiarities of speech and dress, his eccentricity 
of manner, and the sudden, violent, and complicated fluctuation of his 


temperament, with astonishment and wonder, then with laughter and 
ridicule, and now, with dull, uncomprehending acceptance. Nothing 
he did or said surprised them any more, they had no understanding 
and little curiosity, they accepted him as a fact in the, gray schedule of 
their lives. Their relation to him was habitually touched by a kind 
of patronizing banter "kidding the old boy along" they would have 
called it by the communication of smug superior winks and the con- 
spiracy of feeble jests. And in this there was something base and 
ignoble, for Bascom was a better man than any of them. 

He did not notice any of this, it is not likely he would have cared if he 
had, for, like most eccentrics, his thoughts were usually buried in a world 
of his own creating to whose every fact and feeling and motion he was 
fJie central actor. Again, as much as any of his extraordinary family, he 
had carried with him throughout his life the sense that he was "fated" 
a sense that was strong in all of them that his life was pivotal to all 
the actions of providence, that, in short, the time might be out of joint, 
but not himself. Nothing but death could shake his powerful egotism, 
and his occasional storms of fury, his railing at the world, his tirades of 
invective at some motorist, pedestrian, or laborer occurred only when 
he discovered that these people were moving in a world at cross-pur- 
poses to his own and that some action of theirs had disturbed or shaken 
the logic of his universe. 

It was curious that, of all the people in the office, the person who had 
the deepest understanding and respect for him was John T. Brill. Mr. 
Brill was a huge creature of elemental desires and passions: a river of 
profanity rushed from his mouth with the relentless sweep and surge of 
the Mississippi, he could no more have spoken without swearing than 
a whale could swim in a frog-pond he swore at everything, at every 
one, and with every breath, casually and unconsciously, and yet when 
he addressed Bascom his oath was always impersonal, and tinged subtly 
by a feeling of respect. 

Thus, he would speak to Uncle Bascom somewhat in this fashion: 
"God-damn it, Pentland, did you ever look up the title for that stuff in 
Maiden ? That feller's been callin' up every day to find out about it." 

"Which fellow?" Bascom asked precisely. "The man from Cam- 

"No," said Mr. Brill, "not him, the other son of a bitch, the Dor- 
chester feller. How the hell am I goin' to tell him anything if there's no 
goddamn title for the stuff?" 


Profane and typical as this speech was, it was always shaded nicely 
with impersonality toward Bascom conscious to the full of the dis- 
tinction between "damn if' and "damn you'' Toward his other col- 
leagues, however, Mr. Brill was neither nice nor delicate. 

Brill was an enormous man physically: he was six feet two or three 
inches tall, and his weight was close to three hundred pounds. He was 
totally bald, his skull was a gleaming satiny pink; above his great red 
moon of face, with its ponderous and pendulous jowls, it looked almost 
egg-shaped. And in the heavy, deliberate, and powerful timbre of his 
voice there was always lurking this burble of exultant, gargantuan ob- 
scenity: it was so obviously part of the structure of his life, so obviously 
his only and natural means of expression, that it was impossible to con- 
demn him. His epithet was limited and repetitive but so, too, was 
Homer*s, and, like Homer, he saw no reason for changing what had 
already been used and found good. 

He was a lewd and innocent man. Like Bascom, by comparison with 
these other people, he seemed to belong to some earlier, richer and 
grander period of the earth, and perhaps this was why there was more 
'actual kinship and understanding between them than between any of 
the other members of the office. These other people Friedman, Brill's 
daughter Muriel, and Ward belonged to the myriads of the earth, to 
those numberless swarms that with ceaseless pullulation fill the streets 
of life with their gray immemorable tides. But Brill and Bascom were 
men in a thousand, a million: if one had seen them in a crowd he 
would have looked after them, if one had talked with them, he could 
never have forgotten them. 

It is rare in modern life that one sees a man who can express him- 
self with such complete and abundant certainty as Brill did com- 
pletely, and without doubt or confusion. It is true that his life expressed 
itself chiefly by three gestures by profanity, by his great roar of full- 
throated, earth-shaking laughter, and by flatulence, an explosive com- 
ment on existence which usually concluded and summarized his other 
means of expression. 

Although the other people in the office laughed heartily at this soaring 
rhetoric of obscenity, it sometimes proved too much for Uncle Bascom. 
When this happened he would either leave the office immediately, or 
stump furiously into his own little cupboard that seemed silted over 
with the dust of twenty years, slamming the door behind him so vi- 
olently that the thin partition rattled, and then stand for a moment 


pursing his lips, and convolving his features with incredible speed, and 
shaking his gaunt head slightly from side to side, until at length he 
whispered in a tone of passionate disgust and revulsion: "Oh, badl 
Bad! Bad! By every gesture, by every act, he betrays the boor, the vul- 
garian! Can you imagine" here his voice sunk even lower in its scale 
of passionate whispering repugnance "can you for one moment 
imagine a man of breeding and the social graces breaking wind pub- 
Ucly? And before his own daughter. Oh, bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!" 
And in the silence, while Uncle Bascom stood shaking his head in its 
movement of downcast and convulsive distaste, they could hear, sud- 
denly, the ripping noise Brill would make as his pungent answer to all 
the world and his great bellow of throaty laughter. Later on, if Bas- 
com had to consult him on any business, he would open his door 
abruptly, walk out into Brill's office clutching his hands together at his 
waist, and with disgust still carved upon his face, say: "Well, sir, . . . 
If you have concluded your morning devotions," here his voice sank 
to a bitter snarl, "we might get down to the transaction of some of the 
day's business." 

"Why, Reverend!" Brill roared. "You ain't heard nothin' yet!" 
And the great choking bellow of laughter would burst from him 
again, rattling the windows with its power as he hurled his great weight 
backward, with complete abandon, in his creaking swivel-chair. 

It was obvious that he liked to tease the old man, and never lost an 
opportunity of doing so: for example, if any one gave Uncle Bascom a 
cigar, Brill would exclaim with an air of innocent surprise: "Why, 
Reverend, you're not going to smoke that, are you?" 

"Why, certainly," Bascom said tartly. "That is the purpose for which 
it was intended, isn't it?" 

"Why, yes," said Brill, "but you know how they make 'em, don't 
you? I didn't think you'd touch it after some dirty old Spaniard has 
wiped his old hands all over it yes! an' spit upon it, too, because that's 
what they do!" 

"Ah!" Bascom snarled contemptuously. "You don't know what you're 
talking about! There is nothing cleaner than good tobacco! Finest 
and healthiest plant on earth! No question about it!" 

"Well," said Brill, "I've learned something. We live and learn, Rev- 
erend. You've taught me somethin' worth knowing: when it's free it's 
dean; when you have to pay for it it stinks like hell!" He pondered 


heavily for a moment, and the burble began to play about in his great 
throat: "And by God!" he concluded, "tobacco's not the only thing that 
applies to, either. Not by a damned sight!" 

Again, one morning when his nephew was there, Bascom cleared 
his throat portentously, coughed, and suddenly said to him: "Now, 
Eugene, my boy, you are going to have lunch with me today. There's 
no question about it whatever!" This was astonishing news, for he had 
never before invited the youth to eat with him when he came to his 
office, although the boy had been to his house for dinner many times. 
"Yes, sir!" said Bascom, with an air of conviction %nd satisfaction. "I 
have thought it all over. There is a splendid establishment in the base- 
ment of this building small, of course, but everything clean and of 
the highest order! It is conducted by an Irish gentleman whom I 
have known for many years. Finest people on earth: no question about 

It was an astonishing and momentous occasion; the boy knew how 
infrequently he went to a restaurant. Having made his decision, Uncle 
Bascom immediately stepped into the outer offices, and began to dis* 
cuss and publish his intentions with the greatest satisfaction. 

"Yes, sir!" he said in a precise tone, smacking his lips in a ruminant 
fashion, and addressing himself to every one rather than to a particular 
person. "We shall go in and take our seats in the regular way, and I 
shall then give appropriate instructions, to one of the attendants " 
again he smacked his lips as he pronounced this word with such an in- 
describable air of relish that immediately the boy's mouth began to 
water, and the delicious pangs of appetite and hunger began to gnaw 
his vitals "I shall say : 'This is my nephew, a young man now enrolled 
at Harvard Un-i-ver-sit-tee!' " here Bascom smacked his lips together 
again with that same maddening air of relish " 'Yes, sir' (I shall say!) 
'You are to fulfil his order without stint, without delay, and without 
question, and to the utmost of your ability' " he howled, wagging his 
great bony forefinger through the air "As for myself," he declared 
abruptly, "I shall take nothing. Good Lord, no!" he said with a scornful 
laugh. "I wouldn't touch a thing they had to offer. You couldn't pay mt 
to: I shouldn't sleep for a month if I did. But you, my boy!" he howled, 
turning suddenly upon his nephew, " are to have everything your 
heart desires! Everything, everything, everything!" He made an in- 
clusive gesture with his long arms; then closed his eyes, stamped at the 
floor, and began to snuffle with laughter. 


Mr. Brill had listened to all this with his great-jowled face slack- 
jawed and agape with astonishment. Now, he said, heavily: "He's 
goin' to have everything, is he ? Where are you goin' to take him to git 

"Why, sir!" Bascom said in an annoyed tone, "I have told you all 
along we are going to the modest but excellent establishment in the 
basement of this very building." 

"Why, Reverend," Brill said in a protesting tone, "you ain*t goin' 
to take your nephew there, are you? I thought you said you was goin' 
to git somethin' to eat" 

"I had supposed," Bascom said with bitter sarcasm, "that one went 
there for that purpose. I had not supposed that one went there to get 

"Well," said Brill, "if you go there you'll git shaved, all right. You'll 
not only git shaved, you'll git. shinned alive. But you won't git anything 
to eat." And he hurled himself back again, roaring with laughter. 

"Pay no attention to him!" Bascom said to the boy in a tone of bitter 
repugnance. "I have long known that his low and vulgar mind at- 
tempts to make a joke of everything, even the most sacred matters. I 
assure you, my boy, the place is excellent in every way: do you sup- 
pose," he said now, addressing Brill and all the others, with a howl of 
fury "do you suppose, if it were not, that I should for a single mo- 
ment dream of taking him there ? Do you suppose that I would for an 
instant contemplate taking my own nephew, my sister's son, to any place 
in which I did not repose the fullest confidence? Not on your life!" 
he howled. "Not on your life!" 

And they departed, followed by Brill's great bellow, and a farewell 
invitation which he shouted after the young man. "Don't wor*y, son! 
When you git through with that cockroach stew, come back an' I'll 
take you out to lunch with me!" 

Although Brill delighted in teasing and baiting his partner in this 
fashion, there was, at the bottom of his heart, a feeling of deep humility, 
of genuine respect and admiration for him: he respected Uncle Bascom's 
intelligence, he was secretly and profoundly impressed by the fact that 
the old man had been a minister of the gospel and had preached in many 

Moreover, in the respect and awe with which Brill greeted these evi- 
dences of Bascom's superior education, in the eagerness he showed 


when he boasted to visitors, as he often did, of his partner's learning, 
there was a quality of pride that was profoundly touching and paternal: 
it was as if Bascom had been his son, and as if he wanted at every op- 
portunity to display his talents to the world. And this, in fact, was exact- 
ly what he did want to do. Much to Bascom's annoyance, Brill was con- 
stantly speaking of his erudition to strangers who had come into the 
office for the first time, and constantly urging him to perform for them, 
to "say some of them big words, Reverend." And even when the old 
man answered him, as he frequently did, in terms of scorn, anger, and 
contempt, Brill was completely satisfied, if Uncle Bascom would only 
use a few of the "big words" in doing it. Thus, one day, when one of 
his boyhood friends, a New Hampshire man whom he had not seen in 
thirty-five years, had come in to renew their acquaintance Brill, in de- 
scribing the accomplishments of his partner, said with an air of solemn 
affirmation: "Why, hell yes, Jim! It'd take a college perfesser to know 
what the Reverend is talkin* about half the time! No ordinary son-of-a- 
bitch is able to understand him! So help me God, it's true!" he swore 
solemnly, as Jim looked incredulous. "The Reverend knows words the 
average man ain't never heard. He knows words that ain't even in the 
dictionary. Yes, sir! an' uses 'em, too all the time!" he concluded 

"Why, my dear sir!" Bascom answered in a tone of exacerbated con- 
tempt, "What on earth are you talking about ? Such a man as you de- 
scribe would be a monstrosity, a heinous perversion of natural law! A 
man so wise that no one could understand him: so literate that he 
could not communicate with his fellow creatures : so erudite that he led 
the inarticulate and incoherent life of a beast or a savage!" here Uncle 
Bascom squinted his eyes tightly shut, and laughed sneeringly down 
his nose: "Phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh! Why, you con-sum-mate 
fool!" he sneered, "I have long known that your ignorance was bot- 
tomless but I had never hoped to see it equalled Nay, surpassed!" he 
howled, "by your asininity." 

"There you are!" said Brill exultantly to his visitor, "What did I tell 
you? There's one of them words, Jim: 'asserainity,' why, damn it, the 
Reverend's the only one who knows what that word means you won't 
even find it in the dictionary!" 

"Not find it in the dictionary!" Bascom yelled. "Almighty God, come 
down and give this ass a tongue as Thou did'st once before in Balaam's 


Again, Brill was seated at his desk one day engaged with a client in 
those intimate, cautious, and confidential preliminaries that mark the 
consummation of a "deal" in real estate. On this occasion the prospec- 
tive buyer was an Italian: the man sat awkwardly and nervously in a 
chair beside Brill's desk while the great man bent his huge weight 
ponderously and persuasively toward him. From time to time the 
Italian's voice, sullen, cautious, disparaging, interrupted Brill's ponder* 
ous and coaxing drone. The Italian sat stiffly, his thick, clumsy body 
awkwardly clad in his "good" clothes of heavy black, his thick, hairy, 
blunt-nailed hands cupped nervously upon his knees, his black eyes 
glittering with suspicion under his knitted inch of brow. At length, he 
shifted nervously, rubbed his paws tentatively across his knees and then, 
with a smile mixed of ingratiation and mistrust, said: "How mucha you 
want, eh?" 

"How mucha we want?" Brill repeated vulgarly as the burble began 
to play about within his throat. "Why, how mucha you got? . . . You 
know we'll take every damn thing you got! It's not how mucha we 
want, it's how mucha you got!" And he hurled himself backward, bel- 
lowing with laughter. "By God, Reverend," he yelled as Uncle Bascom 
entered, "ain't that right ? It's not how mucha we want, it's how mucha 
you got! 'od damn! We ought to take that as our motter. I've got a 
good mind to git it printed on our letterheads. What do you think, 

"Hey?" howled Uncle Bascom absently, as he prepared to enter his 
own office. 

"I say we ought to use it for our motter." 

"Your what?" said Uncle Bascom scornfully, pausing as if he did not 

"Our motter," Brill said. 

"Not your motter" Bascom howled derisively. "The word is not 
motter," he said contemptuously. "Nobody of any refinement would 
say motter. Motter is not correct!" he howled finally. "Only an ig- 
no-ram-us would say motter. No!" he yelled with final conclusiveness. 
"That is not the way to pronounce it! That is ab-so-lute-ly and em- 
phat-ic-ally not the way to pronounce it!" 

"All right, then, Reverend," said Brill, submissively. "You're the 
doctor. What is the word?" 

"The word is motto" Uncle Bascom snarled. "Of course! Any fool 
knows that!" 


"Why, hell," Mr. Brill protested in a hurt tone. "That's what I said, 
ain't it?" 

"No-o!" Uncle Bascom howled derisively. "No-o! By no means, by 
no means, by no means! You said matter. The word is not motter. 
The word is motto: m-o-t-t-o! M-O-T-T-O does not spell motter," he 
remarked with vicious decision. 

"What does it spell?" said Mr. Brill. 

"It spells motto" Uncle Bascom howled. "It has always spelled motto! 
It will always spell motto! As it was in the beginning, is now, and 
ever shall be: A-a-men!" he howled huskily in his most evangelical fash- 
ion. Then, immensely pleased at his wit, he closed his eyes, stamped a) 
the floor, and snarled and snuffled down his nose with laughter. 

"Well, anyway," said Brill, "no matter how you spell it, it's not how 
mucha we want, it's how mucha you got! That's the way we feel about 

And this, in fact, without concealment, without pretense, without 
evasion, was just how Brill did feel about it. He wanted everything that 
was his and, in addition, he wanted as much as he could get. And this 
rapacity, this brutal and unadorned gluttony, so far from making men 
wary of him, attracted them to him, inspired them with unshakable 
confidence in his integrity, his business honesty. Perhaps the reason for 
this was that concealment did not abide in the man : he published his in- 
tentions to the world with an oath and a roar of laughter and the 
world, having seen and judged, went away with the confidence of this 
Italian that Brill was "one fine-a man!" Even Bascom, who had so of- 
ten turned upon his colleague the weapons of scorn, contempt, and 
mockery, had a curious respect for him, an acrid sunken affection : often, 
when the old man and his nephew were alone, he would recall something 
Brill had said and his powerful and fluent features would suddenly be 
contorted in that familiar grimace, as he laughed his curious laugh which 
was forced out, with a deliberate and painful effort, through his powerful 
nose arid his lips, barred with a few large teeth. "Phuh! phuh! phuh! 
phuh! phuh! ... Of course!" he said, with a nasal rumination, as he stared 
over the apex of his great bony hands, clasped in meditation "of course, 
he is just a poor ignorant fellow! I don't suppose no, sir, I really do rot 
suppose that Brill ever went to school over six months in his life! Sa v !" 
Bascom paused suddenly, turned abruptly with his strange fixed grin, 
and fastened his sharp old eyes keenly on the boy: in this sudden and 
abrupt change, this transference of his vision from his own secret and 


personal world, in which his thought and feeling were sunken, and which 
seemed to be so far away from the actual world about him, there was 
something impressive and disconcerting. His eyes were gray, sharp, and 
old, and one eyelid had a heavy droop or ptosis which, although it did 
not obscure his vision, gave his expression at times a sinister glint, a 
malevolent humor. " Say!" here his voice sank to a deliberate and 
confiding whisper, "(Phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh!) Say a man 
who would he told me Oh, vile! vile! vile! my boy!" his uncle 
whispered, shutting his eyes in a kind of shuddering ecstasy as if at the 
memory of things too gloriously obscene to be repeated. "Can you 
imagine, can you even dream of such a state of affairs if he had possessed 
an atom, a scintilla of delicacy and good breeding! Yes, sir!" he said with 
decision. "I suppose there's no doubt about it! His beginnings were 
very lowly, very poor and humble, indeed! . . . Not that that is in any 
sense to his discredit!" Uncle Bascom said hastily, as if it had occurred 
to him that his words might bear some taint of snobbishness. "Oh, by no 
means, by no means, by no means!" he sang out, with a sweeping up- 
ward gesture of his long arm, as if he were clearing the air of wisps of 
smoke. "Some of our finest men some of the nation's leaders, have 
come from just such surroundings as those. Beyond a doubt! Beyond 
a doubt! There's no question about it whatever! Say!" here he turned 
suddenly upon the boy again with the ptotic and sinister intelligence of 
his eye. "Was Lincoln an aristocrat ? Was he the issue of wealthy par- 
ents? Was he brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth? Was our 
ewn former governor, the Vice-President of the United States today, 
reared in the lap of luxury! Not on your life!" howled Uncle Bascom. 
"He came from frugal and thrifty Vermont farming stock, he has never 
deviated a jot from his early training, he remains today what he has 
always been one of the simplest of men! Finest people on earth, no 
question about it whatever!" 

Again, he meditated gravely with lost stare across the apex of his great 
joined hands, and the boy noticed again, as he had noticed so often, the 
great dignity of his head in thought a head that was highbrowed, lean 
and lonely, a head that not only in its cast of thought but even in its phys- 
ical contour, and in its profound and lonely earnestness, bore an astonish- 
ing resemblance to that of Emerson it was, at times like these, as grand 
a head as the young man had ever seen, and on it was legible the history 
of man's loneliness, his dignity, his grandeur and despair. 

"Yes, sir!" said Bascom, in a moment. "He is, of course, a vulgar fellow 


and some of the things he says at times are Oh, vile! vile! vile!" cried Bas- 
com, closing his eyes and laughing, "Oh, vile! most vile! . . . but (phuh! 
phuhl phuh!) you can't help laughing at the fellow at times because he 
is so ... Oh, I could tell you things, my boy! . . . Oh, vilel vilel" he 
cried, shaking his head downwards. "What coarseness! . . . What in- 
!" he whispered, in a kind of ecstasy. 


EUGENE was now a member of Professor Hatcher's celebrated course 
for dramatists, and although he had come into this work by chance, 
and would in the end discover that his heart and interest were not in it, 


it had now become for him the rock to which his life was anchored, the 
rudder of his destiny, the sole and all-sufficient reason for his being here. 
It now seemed to him that there was only one work in life which he 
could possibly do, and that this work was writing plays, and that if he 
could not succeed in this work he had better die, since any other life 
than the life of the playwright and the theatre was not to be endured. 

Accordingly every interest and energy of his life was now fastened 
on this work with a madman's passion; he thought, felt, breathed, ate, 
drank, slept, and lived completely in terms of plays. He learned all the 
jargon of the art-playwriting cult, read all the books, saw all the shows, 
talked all the talk, and even became a kind of gigantic eavesdropper 
upon life, prowling about the streets with his ears constantly straining to 
hear all the words and phrases of the passing crowd, as if he might hear 
something that would be rare and priceless in a play for Professor 
Hatcher's celebrated course. 

Professor James Graves Hatcher was a man whose professional ca- 
reer had been made difficult by two circumstances: all the professors 
thought he looked like an actor and all the actors thought he looked 
like a professor. In reality, he was wholly neither one, but in character 
and temper, as well as in appearance, he possessed some of the attributes 
of both. 

His appearance was imposing: a well-set-up figure of a man of fifty- 
five, somewhat above the middle height, strongly built and verging 
toward stockiness, with an air of vital driving energy that was always 
filled with authority and a sense of sure purpose, and that never de- 
generated into the cheap exuberance of the professional hustler. His 
voice, like his manner, was quiet, distinguished, and controlled, but 


ways touched with the suggestions of great latent power, with reserves 
of passion, eloquence, and resonant sonority. 

His head was really splendid: he had a strong but kindly-looking 
face touched keenly, quietly by humor; his eyes, beneath his glasses, 
were also keen, observant, sharply humorous, his mouth was wide and 
humorous but somewhat too tight, thin and spinsterly for a man's, his 
nose was large and strong, his forehead shapely and able-looking, and he 
had neat wings of hair cut short and sparse and lying flat against the 

He wore eye-glasses of the pince-nez variety, and they dangled in a 
fashionable manner from a black silk cord: it was better than going to a 
show to see him put them on, his manner was so urbane, casual, and 
distinguished when he did so. His humor, although suave, was also 
quick and rich and gave an engaging warmth and humanity to a per- 
sonality that sometimes needed them. Even in his display of humor, 
however, he never lost his urbane distinguished manner for example, 
when some one told him that one of his women students had referred to 
another woman in the course, an immensely tall angular creature who 
dressed in rusty brown right up to the ears, as "the queen of the angle- 
worms," Professor Hatcher shook all over with sudden laughter, re- 
moved his glasses with a distinguished movement, and then in a rich 
but controlled voice, remarked: 

"Ah, she has a very pretty wit. A very pretty wit, indeed!" 

Thus, even in his agreeable uses of the rich, subtle and immensely 
pleasant humor with which he had been gifted, Professor Hatcher was 
something of an actor. He was one of those rare people who really 
"chuckle," and although there was no doubting the spontaneity and 
naturalness of his chuckle, it is also probably true that Professor Hatcher 
somewhat fancied himself as a chuckler. 

The Hatcherian chuckle was just exactly what the word connotes: 
a movement of spontaneous mirth that shook his stocky shoulders and 
strong well-set torso with a sudden hearty tremor. And although he 
could utter rich and sonorous throat-sounds indicative of hearty mirth 
while this chuckling process was going on, an even more characteristic 
form was completely soundless, the tight lips firmly compressed, the 
edges turned up with the convulsive inclination to strong laughter, the 
fine distinguished head thrown back, while all the rest of him, throat, 
shoulders, torso, belly, arms the whole man shook in the silent 
tremors of the chuckle. 


It could also be said with equal truth that Professor Hatcher was one 
of the few men whose eyes could really "twinkle," and it is likewise 
true that he probably fancied himself as somewhat of a twinkler. 

Perhaps one fact that made him suspect to professors was his air of a 
distinguished and mature, but also a very worldly, urbanity. His man- 
ner, even in the class room, was never that of the scholar or the aca- 
demician, but always that of the cultured man of the world, secure in 
his authority, touched by fine humor and fine understanding, able, 
knowing and assured. And one reason that he so impressed his stu- 
dents may have been that he made some of the most painful and difficult 
labors in the world seem delightfully easy. 

For example, if there were to be a performance by a French club at the 
university of a French play, produced in the language of its birth, Pro- 
fessor Hatcher might speak to his class in his assured, yet casual and 
urbanely certain tones, as follows: 

"I understand Le Cercle Franfais is putting on De Musset's // jaut 
quune porte soit ouverte ou fermte on Thursday night. If you are do- 
ing nothing else, I think it might be very well worth your while to 
brush up on your French a bit and look in on it. It is, of course, a 
trifle and perhaps without great significance in the development of the 
modern theatre, but it is De Musset in rather good form and De Mus- 
set in good form is charming. So it might repay you to have a look at it." 

What was there in these simple words that could so impress and cap- 
tivate these young people ? The tone was quiet, pleasant and urbanely 
casual, the manner easy yet authoritative, what he said about the play 
was really true. But what was so seductive about it was the flattering 
unction which he laid so casually to their young souls the easy off-hand 
suggestion that people "brush up on their French a bit" when most of 
them had no French at all to brush up on, that if they had "nothing 
else to do," they might "look in" upon De Musset's "charming trifle," 
the easy familiarity with De Musset's name and the casual assurance of 
the statement that it was "De Musset in rather good form." 

It was impossible for a group of young men, eager for sophistication 
and emulous of these airs of urbane worldliness, not to be impressed 
by them. As Professor Hatcher talked they too became easy, casual 
and urbane in their manners, they had a feeling of being delightfully at 
ease in the world and sure of themselves, the words "brush up on your 
French a bit" gave them a beautifully comfortable feeling that they 
would really be able to perform this remarkable accomplishment in an 


hour or two of elegant light labor. And when he spoke of the play as 
being "De Musset in rather good form" they nodded slightly with little 
understanding smiles as if De Musset and his various states of form 
were matters of the most familiar knowledge to them. 

What was the effect, then, of this and other such-like talk upon these 
young men eager for fame and athirst for glory in the great art-world 
of the city and the theatre? It gave them, first of all, a delightful sense 
of being in the know about rare and precious things, of rubbing shoul- 
ders with great actors and actresses and other celebrated people, of be- 
ing expert in all the subtlest processes of the theatre, of being trav- 
elled, urbane, sophisticated and assured. 

When Professor Hatcher casually suggested that they might "brush 
up on their French a bit" before going to a performance of a French 
play, they felt like cosmopolites who were at home in all the great 
cities of the world. True, "their French had grown a little rusty" it 
had been some time since they were last in Paris a member of the 
French Academy, no doubt, might detect a few slight flaws in their pro- 
nunciation but all that would arrange itself by a little light and easy 
"polishing" "tout s'arrange, hem?" as we say upon the boulevards. 

Again, Professor Hatcher's pleasant and often delightfully gay an- 
ecdotes about the famous persons he had known and with whom he 
was on such familiar terms told always casually, apropos of some 
topic of discussion, and never dragged in or labored by pretense "The 
last time I was in London, Pinero and I were having lunch together one 
day at the Savoy" or "I was spending the week-end with Henry 
Arthur Jones" or "It's very curious you should mention that. You 
know, Barrie was saying the same thing to me the last time I saw him " 
or "Apropos of this discussion, I have a letter here from 'Gene O'Neill 
which bears on that very point. Perhaps you would be interested in 
knowing what he has to say about it." All this, of course, was cakes 
and ale to these young people it made them feel wonderfully near and 
intimate with all these celebrated people, and with the enchanted world 
of art and of the theatre in which they wished to cut a figure. 

It gave them also a feeling of amused superiority at the posturings 
and antics of what, with a slight intonation of disdain, they called "the 
commercial producers" the Shuberts, Belascos, and others of this kind. 
Thus, when Professor Hatcher told them how he had done some pi- 
oneer service in Boston for the Russian Players and had received a tele- 
gram from the Jewish producer iu New York who was managing them, 


to this effect: "You are the real wonder boy" they were instantly able 
to respond to the sudden Hatcherian chuckle with quiet laughter of 
their own. 

Again, he once came back from New York with an amusing story of 
a visit he had paid to the famous producer, David Belasco. And he de- 
scribed drolly how he had followed a barefoot, snaky-looking female, 
clad in a long batik gown, through seven gothic chambers mystical with 
chimes and incense. And finally he told how he had been ushered into 
the presence of the great ecclesiastic who sat at the end of a cathedral- 
like room beneath windows of church glass, and how he was preceded 
all the time by Snaky Susy who swept low in obeisance as she ap- 
proached, and said in a silky voice "One is here to see you, Mahster," 
and how she had been dismissed with Christ-like tone and movement 
of the hand "Rise, Rose, and leave us now." Professor Hatcher told 
this story with a quiet drollery that was irresistible, and was rewarded 
all along by their shouts of astounded laughter, and finally by their 
smiling and astonished faces, lifting disbelieving eyebrows at each 
other, saying, "Simply incredible! It doesn't seem possible! . . . Mar- 

Finally, when Professor Hatcher talked to them of how a Russian 
actress used her hands, of rhythm, tempo, pause, and timing, of light- 
ing, setting, and design, he gave them a language they could use with 
a feeling of authority and knowledge, even when authority and knowl- 
edge was lacking to them. It was a dangerous and often very trivial 
language a kind of jargonese of art that was coming into use in the 
world of those days, and that seemed to be coincident with another 
jargonese that of science "psychology," as they called it which was 
also coming into its brief hour of idolatry at about the same period, and 
which bandied about its talk of "complexes," "fixations," "repressions," 
"inhibitions," and the like, upon the lips of any empty-headed little fool 
that came along. 

But although this jargon was perhaps innocuous enough when rattled 
off the rattling tongue of some ignorant boy or rattle-pated girl, it could 
be a very dangerous thing when uttered seriously by men who were 
trying to achieve the best, the rarest, and the highest life on earth the 
life which may be won only by bitter toil and knowledge and stern liv 
ing the life of the artist. 

And the great danger of this glib and easy jargon of the arts was 
this: that instead of knowledge, the experience of hard work and patient 


Jiving, they were given a formula for knowledge; a language that 
sounded very knowing, expert and assured, and yet that knew nothing, 
was experienced in nothing, was sure of nothing. It gave to people 
without talent and without sincerity of soul or integrity of purpose, 
with nothing, in fact, except a feeble incapacity for the shock and agony 
of life, and a desire to escape into a glamorous and unreal world of make 
believe a justification for their pitiable and base existence. It gave to 
people who had no power in themselves to create anything of merit or of 
beauty people who were the true Philistines and enemies of art and 
of the artist's living spirit the language to talk with glib knowingness 
of things they knew nothing of to prate of "settings," "tempo," "pace," 
and "rhythm," of "boldly stylized conventions," and the wonderful way 
some actress "used her hands." And in the end, it led to nothing but 
falseness and triviality, to the ghosts of passion, and the spectres of sin- 
cerity, to the shoddy appearances of conviction and belief in people who 
had no passion and sincerity, and who were convinced of nothing, be- 
lieved in nothing, were just the disloyal apes of fashion and the arts. 

"I think you ought to go," says one. "I really do. I really think you 
might be interested." 

"Yes," says number two, in a tone of fine, puzzled, eyebrow-lifting 
protest, "but I hear the play is pretty bad. The reviews were rather awful 
they really were, you know." 

"Oh, the play!" the other says, with a slight start of surprise, as if it 
never occurred to him that any one might be interested in the play 
"the play, the play is rather terrible. But my dear fellow, no one goes 
to see the play . . . the play is nothing," he dismisses it with a contemptu- 
ous gesture "it's the sets!" he cries "the sets are really quite re- 
markable. You ought to go, old boy, just to see the sets I They're very 
good they really are." 

"H'm!" the other says, stroking his chin in an impressed manner. 
"Interesting! In that case, I shall go!" 

The sets! The sets! One should not go to see the play; the only thing 
that matters is the sets. And this is the theatre the magic-maker and 
the world of dreams; and these the' men that are to fashion for it with 
their trivial ape's talk about "sets." Did any one ever hear such damned 
stuff as this since time began ? 

False, trivial, glib, dishonest, empty, without substance, lacking faith 
is it any wonder that among Professor Hatcher's young men few birds 



THAT year the youth was twenty, it had been his first year in New 
England, and the winter had seemed very long. In the man-swarm he 
felt alone and lost, a desolate atom in the streets of life. That year he 
went to see his uncle many times. 

Sometimes he would find him in his dusty little cubicle, bent over the 
intricacy of a legal form, painfully and carefully, with compressed 
lips, filling in the blank spaces with his stiff, angular and laborious hand. 
Bascom would speak quietly, without looking up, as he came in : "Hel- 
lo, my boy. Sit down, won't you ? I'll be with you in a moment." And 
for a time the silence would be broken only by the heavy rumble of 
Brill's voice outside, by the minute scratching of his uncle's pen, and by 
the immense and murmurous sound of time, which rose above the city, 
which caught up in the upper air all of the city's million noises, and yet 
seemed remote, essential, imperturbable and everlasting fixed and un- 
changing, no matter what men lived or died. 

Again, the boy would find his uncle staring straight before him, with 
his great hands folded in a bony arch, his powerful gaunt face composed 
in a rapt tranquillity of thought. At these times he seemed to have es- 
caped from every particular and degrading thing in life from the excess 
of absurd and eccentric speech and gesture, from all demeaning par- 
simonies, from niggling irascibilities, from everything that contorted his 
face and spirit away from its calmness and unity of thought. His face at 
such a time might well have been the mask of thought, the visage of 
contemplation. Sometimes he would not speak for several minutes, his 
mind seemed to brood upon the lip and edge of time, to be remote from 
every dusty moment of the earth. 

One day the boy went there and found him thus : after a few moments 
he lowered his great hands and without turning toward his nephew, 
sat for some time in an attitude of quiet relaxation. At length he said: 

"What is man that thou art mindful of him ?" 

It was one of the first days of spring: the spring had come late, with 
a magical northern suddenness. It seemed to have burst out of the earth 
overnight, the air was lyrical and sang with it. 

Spring came that year like a triumph and like a prophecy it sang 
and shifted like a moth of light before the youth, but he was sure that it 
would bring him a glory and fulfilment he had never known. 


His hunger and thirst had been immense: he was caught up for the 
first time in the midst of the Faustian web there was no food that 
could feed him, no drink that could quench his thirst. Like an insatiate 
and maddened animal he roamed the streets, trying to draw up mercy 
from the cobblestones, solace and wisdom from a million sights and 
faces, or he prowled through endless shelves of high-piled books, tortured 
by everything he could not see and could not know, and growing blind, 
weary, and desperate from what he read and saw. He wanted to know 
all, have all, be all to be one and many, to have the whole riddle of this 
vast and swarming earth as legible, as tangible in his hand as a coin of 
minted gold. 

Suddenly spring came, and he felt at once exultant certainty and joy. 
Outside his uncle's dirty window he could see the edge of Faneuil 
Hall, and hear the swarming and abundant activity of the markets. 
The deep roar of the markets reached them across the singing and 
lyrical air, and he drank into his lungs a thousand proud, potent, 
and mysterious odors which came to him like the breath of certainty, 
like the proof of magic, and like the revelation that all confusion had 
been banished the world that he longed for won, the word that he 
sought for spoken, the hunger that devoured him fed and ended. And 
the markets, swarming with richness, joy, and abundance, thronged 
below him like a living evidence of fulfilment. For it seemed to him 
that nowhere more than here was the passionate enigma of New Eng- 
land felt: New England, with its harsh and stony soil, and its tragic 
and lonely beauty; its desolate rocky coasts and its swarming fisheries, 
the white, piled, frozen bleakness of its winters with the magnificent 
jewelry of stars, the dark firwoods, and the warm little white houses at 
which it is impossible to look without thinking of groaning bins, hung 
bacon, hard cider, succulent bastings and love's warm, white, and 
opulent flesh. 

There was the rustle of gingham by day and sober glances; then, un- 
der low eaves and starlight, the stir of the satiny thighs in feather beds, 
the white small bite and tigerish clasp of secret women always the 
buried heart, the sunken passion, the frozen heat. And then, after the 
long, unendurably hard-locked harshness of the frozen winter, the com- 
ing of spring as now, like a lyrical cry, like a flicker of rain across a 
window glass, like the sudden and delicate noises of a spinet the com- 
ing of spring and ecstasy, and overnight the thrum of wings, the burst 
of the tender buds, the ripple and dance of the roughened water, the 


light of flowers, the sudden, fleeting, almost captured, and exultant 

And here, within eighty yards of the dusty little room where his uncle 
Bascom had his desk, there was living evidence that this intuition was 
not false: the secret people, it was evident, did not subsist alone on cod- 
fish and a jug full of baked beans they ate meat, and large chunks of it, 
for all day long, within the market district, the drivers of big wagons 
were standing to their chins in meat, boys dragged great baskets of raw 
meat along the pavements, red-faced butchers, aproned with gouts of 
blood, and wearing the battered straw hats that butchers wear, toiled 
through the streets below with great loads of loin or haunch or rib, and 
in chill shops with sawdust floors the beeves were hung in frozen regi- 
mental rows. 

Right and left, around the central market, the old buildings stretched 
down to the harbor and the smell of ships: this was built-on land, in old 
days ships were anchored where these cobbles were, but the warehouses 
were also old they had the musty, mellow, blackened air and smell of 
the 'seventies, they looked like Victorian prints, they reeked of an- 
cient ledgers, of "counting houses," of proud, monied merchants, and 
the soft-spoked rumble of victorias. 

By day, this district was one snarled web of chaos: a gewirr of deep- 
bodied trucks, powerful dappled horses, cursing drivers, of loading, un- 
loading, and shipping, of dispatch and order, of the million complicated 
weavings of life and business. 

But if one came here at evening, after the work of the day was done, 
if one came here at evening on one of those delicate and sudden days 
of spring that New England knows, if one came here as many a lonely 
youth had come here in the past, some boy from the inland immensity 
of America, some homesick lad from the South, from the marvellous 
hills of Old Catawba, he might be pierced again by the bitter ecstasy of 
youth, the ecstasy that tears him apart with a cry that has no tongue, 
the ecstasy that is proud, lonely, and exultant, that is fierce with joy and 
blind with glory, but yet carries in it a knowledge, born in such 
a moment, that the intangible cannot be touched, the ungraspable 
cannot be grasped the imperial and magnificent minute is gone for- 
ever which, with all its promises, its million intuitions, he wishes to 
clothe with the living substance of beauty. He wishes to flesh the mo- 
ment with the thighs and breast and belly of a wonderful mistress, he 
wishes to be great and glorious and triumphant, to distill the ethei of 


this ecstasy in a liquor, and to drink strong joy forever; and at the heart 
of all this is the bitter knowledge of death death of the moment, death 
of the day, death of one more infrequent spring. 

Perhaps the thing that really makes New England wonderful is this 
sense of joy, this intuition of brooding and magic fulfilment that hovers 
like a delicate presence in the air of one of these days. Perhaps the an- 
swer is simple : perhaps it is only that this soft and sudden spring, with 
its darts and. flicks of evanescent joy, its sprite-like presence that is only 
half-believed, its sound that is the sound of something lost and elfin 
and half-dreamed, half-heard, seems wonderful after the grim frozen 
tenacity of the winter, the beautiful and terrible desolation, the assault 
of the frost and ice on living flesh which resists it finally as it would re- 
sist the cruel battering of a brute antagonist, so that the tart, stingy 
speech, the tight gestures, the withdrawn and suspicious air, the thin lips, 
red pointed noses and hard prying eyes of these people are really the 
actions of those who, having to defend themselves harshly against nature, 
harshly defend themselves against all the world. 

At any rate, the thing the boy feels who come* at the day's end is 
not completion, weariness, and sterility, but a sense of swelling ecstasy, a 
note of brooding fulfilment. The air will have in it the wonderful odors 
of the market and the smell of the sea; as he walks over the bare 
cobbled pavement under the corrugated tin awnings of the warehouses 
and produce stores a hundred smells of the rich fecundity of the earth 
will assail him: the clean sharp pungency of thin crated wood and the 
citric nostalgia of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, the stench of a de- 
cayed cabbage and the mashed pulp of a rotten orange. There will be 
also the warm coarse limy smell of chickens, the bcrong coddy smell of 
cold fish and oysters; and the crisp moist cleanliness of the garden 
smells of great lettuces, cabbages, new potatoes, with their delicate 
skins loamy with sweet earth, the wonderful sweet crispness of crated 
celery; and then the melons the ripe golden melons bedded in fragrant 
straw and all the warm infusions of the tropics: the bananas, the pine- 
apples and the alligator pears. 

The delicate and subtle air of spring touches all these odors with a new 
and delicious vitality; it draws the tar out of the pavements also, and it 
draws slowly, subtly, from ancient warehouses, the compacted per- 
fumes of eighty years : the sweet thin piney scents of packing-boxes, the 
glutinous composts of half a century, that have thickly stained old 


warehouse plankings, the smells of twine, tar, turpentine and hemp, 
and of thick molasses, ginseng, pungent vines and roots and old piled 
sacking; the clean, ground strength of fresh coffee, brown, sultry, 
pungent, and exultantly fresh and clean; the smell of oats, baled hay 
and bran, of crated eggs and cheese and butter; and particularly the 
smell of meat, of frozen beeves, slick porks, and veals, of brains and 
livers and kidneys, of haunch, paunch, and jowl; of meat that is raw and 
of meat that is cooked, for upstairs in that richly dingy block of buildings 
there is a room where the butchers, side by side with the bakers, the 
bankers, the brokers and the Harvard boys, devour thick steaks of 
the best and tenderest meat, smoking-hot breads, and big, jacketed 

And then there is always the sea. In dingy blocks, memoried with 
time and money, the buildings stretch down to the docks, and there is 
always the feeling that the sea was here, that this is built-on earth. A 
single truck will rattle over the deserted stones, and then there is the street 
that runs along the harbor, the dingy little clothing shops and eating 
places, the powerful strings of freight cars, agape and empty, odorous 
with their warm fatigued planking and the smells of flanges and axle* 
that have rolled great distances. 

And finally, by the edges of the water, there are great piers and store- 
houses, calm and potent with their finished work: they lie there, im- 
mense) starkly ugly, yet touched with the powerful beauty of enormous 
works and movements; they are what they are, they have been built 
without a flourish for the work they do, their great sides rise in level 
cliffs of brick, they are pierced with tracks and can engulf great trains; 
and now that the day is done they breathe with the vitality of a tired but 
living creature. A single footfall will make remote and lonely echoes 
in their brooding depths, there will be the expiring clatter of a single 
truck, the sound of a worker's voice as he says "Good-night," and then 
the potent and magical silence. 

And then there is the sea the sea, beautiful and mysterious as it is 
only when it meets the earth in harbors, the sea that bears in swell and 
glut of tides the odorous savor of the earth, the sea that swings and 
slaps against encrusted piles, the sea that is braided with long ropes of 
scummy weed, the sea that brings the mast and marly scent of shelled 
decay. There is the sea, and there are the great ships the freighters, the 
fishing schooners, the clean white one-night boats that make the New 
York run, now also potent and silent, a glitter of bright lights, of gleam* 


ing brasses, of opulent saloons a token of joy and splendor in dark 
waters, a hint of love and the velvet belly upon dark tides and the sight 
of all these things, the fusion of all these odors by the sprite of May is 
freighted with unspeakable memories, with unutterable intuitions for 
the youth : he does not know what he would utter, but glory, love, power, 
wealth, flight, and movement and the sight of new earth in the morning, 
and the living corporeal fulfilment of all his ecstasy is in his wish and 
his conviction. 

Certainly, these things can be found in New England, but perhaps the 
person who finds this buried joy the most is this lonely visitor and 
particularly the boy from the South, for in the heart of the Southerner 
alone, perhaps, is this true and secret knowledge of the North : it is there 
in his dreams and his childhood premonition, it is there like the dark 
Helen, and no matter what he sees to cheat it, he will always believe in 
it, he will always return to it. Certainly, this was true of the gnarled and 
miserly old man who now sat not far from all this glory in his dingy 
State Street office, for Bascom Pentland, although the stranger on seeing 
him might have said, "There goes the very image of a hard-bitten 
old Down-Easter," had come, as lonely and wretched a youth as ever 
lived, from the earth of Old Catawba, he had known and felt these 
things and, in spite of his frequent bitter attacks on the people, the 
climate, the life, New England was the place to which he had returned 
to live, and for which he felt the most affection. 

Now, ruminant and lost, he stared across the archway of his hands. 
In a moment, with what was only an apparent irrelevance, with what 
was really a part of the coherent past, a light plucked from dark adyts 
of the brain, he said : "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth up- 
ward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" 

He was silent and thoughtful for a moment; then he added sadly: "I 
am an old man. I have lived a long time. I have seen so many things* 
Sometimes everything seems so long ago." 

Then his eye went back into the wilderness, the lost earth, the buried 

Presently he said, "I hope you will come out on Sunday. O, by all 
means! By all means! I believe your aunt is expecting you. Yes, sir, I 
believe she said something to that effect. Or perhaps she intends to pay 
a visit to one of her children. I do not know, I have not the remotest 
not the faintest idea of what she proposes to do/' he howled. "Of course.'* 


he said impatiently and scornfully, "I never have any notion what she 
has in mind. No, sir, I really could not tell you. I no longer pay any 
attention to what she says O! not the slightest!" he waved his great 
hand through the air "Say!" stiffly and harshly he tapped the boy's 
knee, grinning at him with the combative glitter of his ptotic eye 
"Say! did you ever find one of them with whom it was possible to carry 
on a coherent conversation ? Did you ever find one of them who would 
respond to the processes of reason and ordered thought? My dear boy!" 
he cried, "you cannot talk to them. I assure you, you cannot talk to 
theiru You might as well whistle into the wind or spit into the waters of 
the Nile, for all the good it will do you. In his youth man will bare the 
riches of his spirit to them, will exhaust the rich accumulations of his 
genius his wisdom, his learning, his philosophy in an effort to make 
them worthy of his companionship and in the end, what does he al- 
ways find? Why," said Uncle Bascom bitterly, "that he has spent his 
powers in talking to an imbecile" and he snarled vengefully through 
his nose. In a moment more, he contorted his face, and nasally whined 
in a grotesque and mincing parody of a woman's voice, "O, I feel so 
sick! O, deary me, now! I think my time is coming on again! O, you 
don't love me any mo-o-ore! O, I wish I was dead! O, I can't get up to- 
day! O, I wish you'd bring me something nice from to-own! O, if you 
loved me you'd buy me a new hat! O, I've got nothing to we-e-ar!" here 
his voice had an added snarl of bitterness "I'm ashamed to go out on 
the street with all the other wim-men!" 

Then he paused broodingly for a moment more, wheeled abruptly 
and tapped the boy on the knee again : "The proper study of mankind is 
say!" he said with a horrible fixed grimace and in a kind of cunning 
whisper "does the poet say woman? I want to ask you: does he, 
now? Not on your life!" yelled Uncle Bascom. "The word is man, 
man, man! Nothing else but man!" 

Agair he was silent: then, with an accent of heavy sarcasm, he went 
on : "Your aunt likes music. You may have observed your aunt is fond 
of music- " 

It was, in fact, the solace of her life: on a tiny gramophone which one 
of her daughters had given her, she played constantly the records of the 
great composers. 

" Your aunt is fond of music," Bascom said deliberately. "Perhaps 
you may have thoughtperhaps it seemed to you that she discovered 
it perhaps you thought it was your aunt's own patent and invention 


but there you would be wrong) O yes! my boy!" he howled remotely. 
"You may have thought so, but you would be wrong Say!" he turned 
slowly with a malevolent glint of interrogation, a controlled ironic power 
"was the Fifth Symphony written by a woman? Was the object of 
your aunt's worship, Richard Wagner, a female?" he snarled. "By no 
means! Where are their great works their mighty symphonies, their 
great paintings, their epic poetry ? Was it in a woman's skull that the 
Critique of Pure Reason was conceived ? Is the gigantic work upon the 
ceiling of the Sistine Chapel the product of a woman's genius? Say! 
did you ever hear of a lady by the name of William Shakespeare ? Was 
it a female of that name who wrote King Lear? Are you familiar with 
the works of a nice young lady named John Miltcn? Or Fraulein 
Goethe, a sweet German girl?" he sneered. "Perhaps you have been 
edified by the writ-ings of Mademoiselle Voltaire or Miss Jonathan 
Swift? Phuh! Phuh! Phuh! Phuh! Phuh!" 

He paused, stared deliberately across his hands, and in a moment re- 
peated, slowly and distinctly : "The woman gave me of the tree and I 
did eat. Ah! that's it! There, my boy, you have it! There, in a nut-shell, 
you have the work for which they are best fitted." And he turned upon 
his nephew suddenly with a blaze of passion, his voice husky and trem- 
ulous from the stress of emotion. "The tempter! The Bringer of Forbid- 
den Fruit! The devil's ambassador! Since the beginning of time that has 
been their office to madden the brain, to turn man's spirit from its 
highest purposes, to corrupt, to seduce, and to destroy! To creep and 
crawl, to intrude into the lonely places of man's heart and brain, to wind 
herself into the core of his most secret life as a worm eats its way into a 
healthy fruit to do all this with the guile of a serpent, the cunning of 
a fox that, my boy, is what she's here for! and she'll never change!" 
And, lowering his voice to an ominous and foreboding whisper, he said 
mysteriously, "Beware! Beware! Do not be deceived!" 

In a moment more he had resumed his tone and manner of calm de- 
liberation and, with an air of irrelevance, somewhat grudgingly, as if 
throwing a bone to a dog, he said, "Your aunt, of course, was a woman 
of considerable mentality considerable, that is, for a female. Of course, 
her mind is no longer what it used to be. I never talk to her any more," 
he said indifferently. "I do not listen to her. I think she said something 
to me about your coming out on Sunday! But I do not know. No, sir, 
I could not tell you what her plans are. I have my own interests, and I 
suppose she has hers. Of course, she has her music. . . . Yes, sir, she 


always has her music," he said indifferently and contemptuously, and, 
staring across the apex of his hands, he forgot her. 

Yet, he had been young, and full of pain and madness. For a space he 
had known all the torments any lover ever knew. So much Louise had 
told her nephew, and so much Bascom had not troubled to deny. For 
bending toward the boy swiftly, fiercely, and abruptly, as if Bascom was 
not there, she whispered: "Oh, yes! he's indifferent enough to me now 
but there was a time, there was a time, I tell you! when he was mad 
about me! The old fool!" she cackled suddenly and bitterly with a 
seeming irrelevance. Then bending forward suddenly with a resump- 
tion of her former brooding intensity, she whispered: "Yes! he was mad, 
mad, mad! Oh, he can't deny it!" she cried. "He couldn't keep his eyes 
off me for a minute! He went cwazy if any other man so much as 
looked at me!" 

"Quite true, my dear! Quite true!" said Uncle Bascom without a trace 
of anger or denial in his voice, with one of his sudden and astonishing 
changes to a mood of tender and tranquil agreement. "Oh, yes," he said 
again, staring reminiscently across the apex of his great folded hands, 
"it is all quite true every word as she has spoken it quite true, quite 
true. I had forgotten but it's all quite true." And he shook his gaunt 
head gently from side to side, turning his closed eyes downward, and 
snuffling gently, blindly, tenderly, with laughter, with a passive and in- 
different memory. 

For a year or two after his marriage, she had said, he had been mad- 
dened by a black insanity of jealousy. It descended on his spirit like a 
choking and pestilence-laden cloud, it entered his veins with blackened 
tongues of poison, it crept along the conduits of his blood, sweltered ven- 
omously in his heart, it soaked into the convolutions of his brain until 
his brain was fanged with hatred, soaked in poison, stricken, maddened, 
and unhinged. His gaunt figure wasted until he became the picture of 
skeletonized emaciation, jealousy and fear ate like a vulture at his en* 
trails, all of the vital energy, the power and intensity of his life, was fed 
into this poisonous and consuming fire and then, when it had almost 
wrecked his health, ruined his career, and destroyed his reason, it left 
him as suddenly as it came: his life reverted to its ancient and imbedded 
core of egotism, he grew weary of his wife, he thought of her indiffer- 
ently, he forgot her. 

And she, poor soul, wa s like a rabbit trapped before the fierce yellow 


eye, the hypnotic stare of a crouching tiger. She did not know whether 
he would spring, strike forth his paw to maul her, or walk off indiffer- 
ently. She was dazed and stricken before the violence of his first passion, 
the unreasoning madness of his jealousy, and in the years that followed 
she was bewildered, resentful, and finally embittered by the abrupt in- 
difference which succeeded it an indifference so great that often he 
seemed to forget her very existence for days at a time, to live with her 
in a little house as if he were scarcely conscious of her presence, stumping 
about the place in an intensity of self-absorption while he cursed and 
muttered to himself, banged open furnace doors, chopped up whatever 
combinations of raw foods his fantastic imagination might contrive, 
and answering her impatiently and contemptuously when she spoke to 
him: "What did you say-y? Oh, what are you talk-ing about?" and 
he would stump away again, absorbed mysteriously with his own affairs. 
And sometimes, if he was the victim of conspiracy in the universe if 
God had forsaken him and man had tricked and cheated him, he would 
roll upon the floor, hammer his heels against the wall, and howl his 
curses at oblivious heaven. 

Louise, meanwhile, her children having left her, played Wagner on 
the gramophone, kept her small house tidy, and learned to carry on 
involved and animated conversations with herself, or even with her pots 
and pans, for when she scrubbed and cleaned them, she would talk to 
them: if she dropped one, she would scold it, pick it from the floor, 
spank it across the bottom, saying: "No, you don't! Naughty, you bad 
thing, you!" And often, while he stumped through the house, these 
solitary conversations were interspersed by fits of laughter: she would 
bend double over her pots snuffling with soft laughter which was faintly 
broken at its climax, a long high "Who-oop." Then she would shake 
her head pityingly, and be off again, but at what she was laughing she 
could not have said. 

One night, however, she interrupted one of Bascom's stamping and 
howling tirades by putting on her tiny gramophone The Ride of the 
Valkyries, as recorded by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Bas- 
com, after the first paralysis of his surprise had passed, rushed furi- 
ously toward the offending instrument that was providing such melo- 
dious but mighty competition. Then Bascom halted; for suddenly he 
noticed that Louise was standing beside the instrument, that she was 
snuffling through her nose with laughter, and that from time to time she 


Bascom also noticed that she held a large carving knife in her hand 
With a loud yell he turned and fled toward his room, where he locked 
the door, crying out strongly in an agony of terror: "O Momma! Mom- 
ma! Save me!" 

All this had amused Louise enormously. She played the record over 
time after time, forever snuffling with laughter and the high cackle: 
"Who-oo-oo!" She bent double with it. 

And now, as the boy looked at the old man, he had a sense of union 
with the past. It seemed to him if he would only speak, the living past, 
the voices of lost men, the pain, the pride, the madness and despair, the 
million scenes and faces of the buried life all that an old man ever 
knew would be revealed to him, would be delivered to him like a price- 
less treasure, as an inheritance which old men owed to young, and which 
should be the end and effort of all living. His savage hunger was a kind 
of memory: he thought if he could speak, it would be fed. 

And for a moment, it seemed, he saw the visages of time, dark time, 
the million lock-bolts shot back in man's memory, the faces of the lost 
Americans, and all the million casual moments of their lives, with 
Bascom blazing at them from a dozen pulpits, Bascom, tortured by love 
and madness, walking the streets of the nation, stumping the rutted 
roads, muttering through darkness with clasped bony hands, a gaunt 
and twisted figure reeling across the continent below immense ana 
cruel skies. Light fell upon his face and darkness crossed it : he came up 
from the wilderness, from derbied men and bustled women, from all of 
the memories of lavish brown, and from time, dark time from a time 
that was further off than Saxon thanes, all of the knights, the spear- 
heads, and the horses. 

Was all this lost? 

"It was so long ago," the old man said. 

Bitterly, bitterly Boston one time more: the flying leaf, the broken 
cloud. Was no love crying in the wilderness? 

" So long ago. I have lived so long. I have seen so much. I could 
tell you so many things," his uncle said huskily, with weariness and in- 
difference. His eye was lustreless and dead, he looked for a moment 
tired and old. 

All at once, a strange and perplexing vision, which was to return many 
times in the years that followed, came to the boy. It was this: then*, 


was a company of old men and women at dinner, seated together 
around a table. All of them were very old, older than his uncle; 
the faces of the old men and women were fragile and delicate like 
old yellowed china, their faces were frail and sexless, they had be- 
gun to look alike. In their youth all these people had known one 
another. The men had drunk, fought, whored, hated one another, and 
loved the women. Some had been devoured by the sterile and corrupt 
fear and envy that young men know. In secret their lips were twisted, 
their faces livid, and their hearts bitter; their eyes glittered with a rep- 
tilian hatred of another man they dreaded his success, and they exulted 
in his failure, laughing with a delirious joy when they heard or read of 
his hurt, defeat, or humiliation. They had been afraid to speak or confess 
what was in their hearts, they feared the mockery of their fellows; with 
one another their words were careful, picked, and disparaging. They 
gave the lie to passion and belief and they said what they knew was 
false. And yet along dark roads at night they had shouted out into the 
howling winds their great goat cries of joy, exultancy and power; they 
had smelled snow in thick brooding air at night, and they had watched 
it come, softly spitting at the window glass, numbing the footfalls of the 
earth with its soft silent fall, filling their hearts with a dark proud ecstasy, 
touching their entrails with impending prophecy. Each had a thousand 
dark desires and fantasies; each wanted wealth, power, fame and love; 
each saw himself as great, good and talented; each feared and hated 
rivals in business or in love and in crowds they glared at one another 
with hard hostile eyes, they bristled up like crested cocks, they watched 
their women jealously, felt looks and glances through their shoulder- 
blades, and hated men with white spermatic n*cks, amorous hair, and 
faces proud and insolent with female conquest. 

They had been young and full of pain and combat, and now all chis 
was dead in them: they smiled mildly, feebly, gently, they spoke in thin 
voices, and they looked at one another with eyes dead to desire, hostility, 
and passion. 

As for the old women, they sat there on their yellowed and bony 
haunches. They were all beyond the bitter pain and ecstasy of youth 
its frenzy, its hope, its sinew of bright blood and agony : they were be- 
yond the pain and fear of anything save age and death. Here was a 
faithful wife, a fruitful mother; here was an adulterous and voluptuous 
woman, the potent mistress of a dozen men, here was her cuckold hus- 
band, who had screamed like a tortured animal when he had first found 


her in bed with another man, and here was the man he found her with; 
here was another man in whom the knowledge of his wife's infidelity 
had aroused only a corrupt inverted joy, he exulted in it, he urged her 
on into new love affairs, he besought her greedily to taunt him with it, 
he fed upon his pain and now they were all old and meagre and had 
the look of yellowed china. They turned their mild sunken faces to- 
ward one another with looks in which there was neither hate nor love 
nor desire nor passion, they laughed thinly, and their memory was all of 
little things. 

They no longer wanted to excel or to be first; they were no longer mad 
and jealous; they no longer hated rivals; they no longer wanted fame; 
they no longer cared for work or grew drunk on hope; they no longer 
turned into the dark and struck their bloody knuckles at the wall; they 
no longer writhed with shame upon their beds, cursed at the memory of 
defeat and desolation, or ripped the sheets between convulsive fingers. 
Could they not speak ? Had they forgotten ? 

Why could not the old men speak ? They had known pain, death and 
madness, yet all their words were stale and rusty. They had known the 
wilderness, the savage land, the blood of the murdered men ran down 
into the earth that gave no answer; and they had seen it, they had shed 
it. Where were the passion, pain and pride, the million living moments 
of their lives? Was all this lost? Were they all tongueless? It seemed 
to the boy that there was something sly and evil in their glances as they 
sat together, as if they hoarded some cunning and malevolent wisdom in 
their brains, as if the medicine to all our grief and error was in them, but 
as if through the evil and conspirate communication of their glance, 
they had resolved to keep it from us. Or were they simply devoured with 
satiety, with weariness and indifference ? Did they refuse to speak be- 
cause they could not speak, because even memory had gone lifeless in 
them ? 

Yes. Words echoed in their throat but they were tongueless. For them 
the past was dead: they poured into our hands a handful of dry dust 
and ashes. 

The dry bones, the bitter dust? The living wilderness, the silent 
waste ? The barren land ? 

Have no lips trembled in the wilderness? No eyes sought seaward 
from the rock's sharp edge for men returning home? Has no pulse beat 
more hot with love or hate upon the river's edge? Or where the old 


wheel and the rusted stock lie stogged in desert sand: by the horsehead 
a woman's skull. No love? 

No lonely footfalls in a million streets, no heart that beat its best and 
bloodiest cr,y out against the steel and stone, no aching brain, caught in 
its iron ring, groping among the labyrinthine canyons ? Naught in that 
immense and lonely land but incessant growth and ripeness and pollu- 
tion, the emptiness of forests and deserts, the uhearted, harsh and metal 
Bangle of a million tongues, crying the belly-cry for bread, or the great 
cat's snarl for meat and honey? All, then, all? Birth and the twenty 
thousand days of snarl and jangle and no love, no love? Was no love 
crying in the wilderness ? 

It was not true. The lovers lay below the lilac bush; the laurel leaves 
were trembling in the wood. 

Suddenly it seemed to the boy, that if he could put his hand upon his 
uncle, if he could grip his fingers in his stringy arm, his own strength and 
youth would go into him, and he could rekindle memory like a living 
flame in him, he could animate for an hour that ancient heart with the 
exultancy, the power, the joy that pulsed in himself; he could make the 
old man speak. 

He wanted to speak to him as people never speak to one another, he 
wanted to say and hear the things one never says and hears. He wanted 
to know what the old man's youth beyond its grim weather of poverty, 
loneliness, and desperation had been like. His uncle had been over ten 
years old when the war had ended, and he had seen the men plod home 
in wreaths of dust and heard their casual voices in a room, he had breathed 
the air of vanished summers, he had seen cloud shadows floating on the 
massed green of the wilderness, the twisting of a last lone leaf upon a 
bough; and he had heard the desolate and stricken voices in the South 
long, long ago, the quiet and casual voices of lost men, a million vanished 
footsteps in the streets of life. And he had known the years of brown, 
dark lavish brown, the lost and hypocritic years, the thunder of the 
wheels and hooves upon the cobbles, the color of bright blood the 
savagery, the hunger and the fear. 

Was the memory of all this lost ? 

The boy touched him he put his hand upon his uncle's shoulder; 
the old man did not move. Sunken in what lost world, buried in what 
incommunicable and tongueless past, he said "So long ago." 

Then the boy got up and left him and went out into the streets where 


the singing and lyrical air, the man-swarm passing in its million-footed 
weft, the glorious women and the girls compacted in a single music of 
belly and breasts and thighs, the sea, the earth, the proud, potent, clamor- 
ous city, all of the voices of time, fused to a unity that was like a song, a 
token and a cry. Victoriously, he trod the neck of doubt as if it were a 
serpent: he was joined to the earth, a part of it, and he possessed it; he 
would be wasted and consumed, filled and renewed eternally; he would 
feel unceasingly alternate tides of life and dark oblivion; he would be 
emptied without weariness, replenished forever with strong joy. He had 
a tongue for agony, a food for hunger, a door for exile and a surfeit for 
insatiate desire: exultant certainty welled up in him, he thought he 
could possess it all, and he cried: "Yes! It will be mine!" 


HE had spells and rhymes of magic numbers which would enable him, 
he thought, to read all of the million books in the great library. This was 
a furious obsession with him all the time. And there were other spells 
and rhymes which would enable him to know the lives of 50,000,000 
people, to visit every country in the world, to know a hundred lan- 
guages, possess 10,000 lovely women, and yet have one he loved and 
honored above all, who would be true and beautiful and faithful to him. 

And by the all-resuming magic of these spells he would go everywhere 
on earth, while keeping one place to return to; and while driven mad 
with thirst and hunger to have everything, he would be peacefully con- 
tent with almost nothing; and while wanting to be a famous, honored, 
celebrated man, he would live obscurely, decently, and well, with one 
true love forever. In short, he would have the whole cake of the world, 
and eat it, too have adventures, labors, joys, and triumphs that would 
exhaust the energies of ten thousand men, and yet have spells and charms 
for all of it, and was sure that with these charms and spells and sorceries, 
all of it was his. 

He would rush out of the great library into the street, and take 
the subway into Boston. And as the train smashed and rocked along, 
he would sit there solemnly with his lungs expanded to the bursting 
point and his chest swollen and stuck out like the breast of a pouter 
pigeon, while his eyes bulged, the veins on his forehead stuck out, and 
his face slowly turned an apoplectic purple as he sat there rocking with 
the agony of his effort. 


Then the train would roar into the Central Station, and the breath 
would come sobbing and soughing out of his tortured lungs like wind 
out of an organ bellows. And for several seconds, while the train was 
stopped there at the station (for in these magic formulas these stops at 
stations "did not count") he would pant and gasp for breath like a fish 
out of water, gulping a new supply ravenously down into his lungs 
again, as if he thought he was being shot in a projectile through the 
terrific vacuum of unmeasured space. 

Then, as the train roared out into the tunnel's dark again, he would 
repeat the effort, sitting as solemn as an owl with his bulging eyes, stuck- 
out chest, the stolid apoplectic purple of his swollen face, while little chil- 
dren looked at him with frightened eyes, their mothers with a glance of 
nervous apprehension, and the men in all the various attitudes of gape- 
jawed astonishment and stupefaction. Yet, at that time, he saw nothing 
strange or curious in this mad behavior. Rather, to hold his breath there 
in the tunnel's dark, to make that mystery of rite and number, and to 
follow it with a maniacal devotion seemed as inevitable and natural to 
him as the very act of life, of breath itself, and he was sometimes bitterly 
incensed when people stared at him because of it. 

Those faces the secret dark, unknown, nameless faces, the faces of 
the million instant casual meetings of these years, in the cars of sub- 
way trains or on the swarming streets returned in later years to 
haunt him with a blazing, unforgettable intensity of vision, with an 
overwhelming sense of strangeness, loss and sorrow, a poignancy 
of familiarity, afTection and regret, which was somehow, unbelievably, 
as wordless, grievous, full of an instant rending and unfathomable pity, 
as those things a man has known best and loved with all the life and 
passion in him, and has lost forever a child's quick laugh of innocence 
and exultant mirth, a woman's smile, an intonation in her voice, the 
naked, child-like look remembered in the eyes of simple, faithful people 
who have gone, or the snatches of the song one's brother sang when he lay 
drowned in darkness and delirium, as he died. 

Why did the unknown faces of these years come back to him ? For he 
could not forget the million obscure faces of those first years of his 
wandering when for the first time he walked alone the streets of a 
great city, a madman, a beggar, and a king, feeling the huge joy of the 
secret world impending over him with all the glory of its magic im- 
minence, and when each furious prowl and quest into the swarming 
streets of life, each furious journey through the tunnel's depth was liv- 


ing with the intolerable prescience of triumph and discovery a life 
more happy, fortunate, golden, and complete than any life before had 
ever been. 

He did not know. He never knew why all those obscure, nameless 
and unknown faces of a million strangers who passed and vanished in 
an instant from his sight, or whom he passed a hundred times upon the 
streets without a word or sign of recognition, should return to haunt him 
later with a sense of loss, aflfection, and the familiarity of utter knowl- 
edge. But he knew that they came back to him in images of unfading 
brightness, and that the light of time, dark time, was on them all, and 
that there was revealed to him, in later years, something strange and 
mad and lonely in the lives of all of them, which he had accepted 
instantly, and felt no wonder or surprise at, when he had seen them. 

But these images of the past would come back in later years, and with 
a feeling of bitter loss and longing he would want to find, to see, to 
know them all again, to ask them what their lives had been, and what 
had happened to them. It was a weird, strange, assorted crew that 
company of memory on whom the light of time would fall with such 
a lonely hue, and how they were all got together in that magic con- 
sonance, he could never tell, but he could not forget them. 

One was an old man, an old man with fierce restless eyes, and bedrag- 
gled mustaches of a stained tobacco yellow who kept a lodging house 
where a student that he knew had rooms, and whose house, from the 
basement to the attic, was a museum to the old man's single mania. 
For that house was crowded with old tottering stacks of books, a moun- 
tain of junk, uncounted and uncountable, a weariness and desolation of 
old print, dusty, yellowed, and unreadable and all were memoirs of a 
single man, Napoleon. 

Another was a woman with a mass of henna hair, piled up in a great 
crown upon her head, who sat smugly, day after day, like something 
ageless and embalmed, a presence deathless and hermetic to all the 
things that change and pass, in a glass cage before a moving-pic- 
ture house on Washington Street, where people thronged in the dense 
and narrow line before her all the time, and glass steps and a rotating 
stairway went steeply up beside her cage, and flashing cascades of bright 
water foamed and tumbled underneath the glassy stairs, as the woman 
with piled henna hair sat always in her cage, deathless, smug, hermetic, 
and embalmed. 

Another was an old man with a mad, fierce, handsome face and wild 


strewn hair of silvery white, who never wore a hat or overcoat, and who 
muttered through the streets of Cambridge, over the board walks of the 
Harvard Yard, in every kind of weather: winter was around him al- 
ways, the rugged skies of wintry sunsets, red and harsh, the frozen 
desolation of old snow in street and Yard and gutter, the harsh, in- 
terminable, weary savagery of gray winter. 

One was a waitress in a restaurant on Tremont Street, a woman quiet, 
decent, and demure in manner, who wore faintly on her lips continually 
the most sensual, tender, and seductive mystery of a smile that he had 
ever seen on any woman's face, who drew him back into that place to eat 
a thousand times, who made him think of her at night, and prowl the 
streets and think of her, and go back to that restaurant night after 
night, with a feeling of wild joy and imminent possession when he 
thought of her, and yet who said, did, promised nothing that was not 
sedate, decent, and correct, or that could give him comfort, hope, or 
knowledge of her life. 

He never got to know her, he never even knew her name, some secrecy 
and pride in him prevented him from speaking to her with familiar 
warmth or curiosity, but he spent thousands of good hours in thinking of 
her hours filled with all the passion, dreams, and longing youth can 
know. The woman was no longer young; the other waitresses were 
younger, fresher, better-looking, had better legs and finer figures; he 
had no way at all of knowing the quality of her life, mind, spirit, speech 
save that when he heard her speak her voice was a little husky and 
coarse-fibred but that woman became the central figure of one of those 
glittering and impossible fantasies young men have. 

It was a great legend of wealth and fame and love and glory in which 
this woman lived as a creature of queenly beauty, delicacy, intelligence, 
and grandeur of the soul and every obstacle of cold and acid fact that 
interposed itself between him and his vision he would instantly destroy 
by the wild fantastic logic of desire. 

And because of her he prowled a hundred streets, and walked three 
thousand miles, and ate one thousand sirloin steaks in that one restaurant. 
He would wait for night to come with furious impatience, and would 
feel his hands grow weak, his entrails numb, his heart begin to pound, 
and his throat to swell with this intolerable exultancy of joy as he ap- 
proached the restaurant. Then when he got inside, and had gone upstairs 
to where the restaurant was, his whole body would be stirred with such 
a shifting iridescence of passion, happiness, hunger, triumph, music, and 


wild exuberant humor that he felt he could no longer hold the swelling 
power of ecstasy that he felt in him. 

Everything in the restaurant would become impossibly good, wonder- 
ful, and happy. The beautifully clean, crisply wais'.ed, and voluptuous- 
looking waitresses would be passing all around him bearing trays of 
food, the empress of his desire would pass by clean and neat and dainty, 
sedate and decent and demure, smiling that proud, smoke-like, faint, 
ghost-phantom smile of maddening tenderness and seduction, the 
three-piece orchestra would be playing briskly, softly, languorously, 
strains of popular music, filling his heart with the swelling paeans of 
another, prouder, grander, more triumphant music; while he listened, 
some robust, handsome, clear-eyed and lusty-figured New England girls 
would be sitting at a table, smartly, roughly dressed, their fine legs 
clothed with woollen stockings, their feet shod with wide-open galoshes, 
looking almost ripe for love and tenderness if something could be done 
to them and all of this spurred his hunger with a kind of madden- 
ing relish, and made the food taste better than any he had ever had be- 

Everything he saw would fill him with haunting sorrow, hunger, joy, 
the sense of triumph, glory, and delight, or with a limitless exuberance of 
wild humor. The motto of the restaurant, fixed on the wall in shields 
embossed with a flamboyant coat of arms, was written in a scroll be- 
neath the coat of arms, as follows: "Luxuria Cum Economia." The 
effect these words wrought on his spirit was unbelievable: he could 
never say what he wished to say, or what he felt about them, and to say 
that they were "the funniest words he ever saw," would not begin to 
convey their real effect on him. 

For what they did to him was so far beyond mere funniness that he 
had no name to give to the emotion they evoked. But instantly, when 
he saw them, the wild wordless surge of a powerful and idiot exuberance 
of humor would swell up in him and split his features with an exultant 

He would want to roar with laughter, to shout out and pound upon 
the table in his joy, but instead the wild voices of a goat-like ex- 
uberance would swell up in his throat until the people at the other tables 
would begin to stare at him as if he had gone mad. And later, on the 
streets, or in his room at night, he would suddenly remember them 
again, and then that idiot, wordless, and exultant glee would burst 
out of him in one roar of joy. 


Yet, the words gave him a strange happiness and content, as well. He 
felt a feeling of tenderness for the people who had written them, for the 
owners of the restaurant who had solemnly and triumphantly thought 
them out, for all the doctrines of "taste," "class," and "refinement" they 
evoked, for something mistaken and most pitiful that had got into our 
lives, and that was everywhere, something grotesquely wrong, ridiculous 
and confused that made one somehow feel a warm, a wordless affection 
for its victims. 

But this was the reason why these things could never be forgotten 
because we are so lost, so naked and so lonely in America. Immense and 
cruel skies bend over us, and all of us are driven on forever and we have 
no home. Therefore, it is not the slow, the punctual sanded drip of the 
unnumbered days that we remember best, the ash of time; nor is it the 
huge monotone of the lost years, the unswerving schedules of the lost 
life and the well-known faces, that we remember best. It is a face seen 
once and lost forever in a crowd, an eye that looked, a face that smiled 
and vanished on a passing train, it is a prescience of snow upon a cer- 
tain night, the laughter of a woman in a summer street long years ago, it 
is the memory of a single moon seen at the pine's dark edge in old Octo- 
ber and all of our lives is written in the twisting of a leaf upon a 
bough, a door that opened, and a stone. 

For America has a thousand lights and weathers and we walk the 
streets, we walk the streets forever, we walk the streets of life alone. 

It is the place of the howling winds, the hurrying of the leaves in old 
October, the hard clean falling to the earth of acorns. The place of the 
storm-tossed moaning of the wintry mountainside, where the young men 
cry out in their throats and feel the savage vigor, the rude strong ener- 
gies; the place also where the trains cross rivers. 

It is a fabulous country, the only fabulous country; it is the one 
place where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all 
the time. 

It is the place of exultancy and strong joy, the place of the darkened 
brooding air, the smell of snow; it is the place of all the fierce, the bitten 
colors in October, when all of the wild, sweet woods flame up; it is also 
the place of the cider press and the last brown oozings of the York Im- 
perials. It is the place of the lovely girls with good jobs and the husky 
voices, who will buy a round of drinks; it is the place where the women 
with fine legs and silken underwear lie in tAe pullman berth below you, 


it is the place of the dark-green snore of the pullman cars, and the 
voices in the night-time in Virginia. 

It is the place where great boats are baying at the harbor's mouth, 
where great ships are putting out to sea; it is the place where great 
boats are blowing in the gulf of night, and where the river, the dark and 
secret river, full of strange time, is forever flowing by us to the sea. 

The tugs \eep baying in the river; at twelve o'clocJ^ the Berengaria 
moans, her lights slide gently past the piers beyond Eleventh Street; 
and in the night a tall tree jails in Old Catawba, there in the hills of 

It is the place of autumnal moons hung low and orange at the frosty 
edges of the pines; it is the place of frost and silence; of the clean dry 
shocks and the opulence of enormous pumpkins that yellow on hard 
clotted earth; it is the place of the stir and feathery stumble of the hens 
upon their roost, the frosty, broken barking of the dogs, the great barn- 
shapes and solid shadows in the running sweep of the moon-whited 
countryside, the wailing whistle of the fast express. It is the place of 
flares and steamings on the tracks, and the swing and bob and tottering 
dance of lanterns in the yards; it is the place of dings and knellings and 
the sudden glare of mighty engines over sleeping faces in the night; it 
is the place of the terrific web and spread and smouldering, the distant 
glare of Philadelphia and the solid rumble of the sleepers; it is also the 
place where the Transcontinental Limited is stroking eighty miles an 
hour across the continent and the small dark towns whip by like bullets, 
and there is only the fanlike stroke of the secret, immense and lonely 
earth again. 

/ have foreseen this picture many times: I will buy passage on the 
Fast Express. 

It is the place of the wild and exultant winter's morning and the wind, 
with the powdery snow, that has been howling all night long; it is the 
place of solitude and the branches of the spruce and hemlock piled 
with snow; it is the place where the Fall River boats are tethered to the 
wharf, and the wild gray snow of furious, secret, and storm-whited 
morning whips across them. It is the place of the lodge by the frozen 
lake and the sweet breath and amorous flesh of sinful woman; it is the 
place of the tragic and lonely beauty of New England; it is the place of 
the red barn and the sound of the stabled hooves and of bright tatters 
of old circus posters; it is the place of the immense and pungent smell 
of breakfast, the country sausages and the ham and eggs, the smoking 


wheat cakes and the fragrant coffee, and of lone hunters in the frosty 
thickets who whistle to their lop-eared hounds. 

Where is old Doctor Bollard now with all his dogs? He held that 
they were sacred, that the souls of all the dear lost dead went into them. 
His youngest sister's soul sat on the seat beside him; she had long ears 
and her eyes were sad. Two dozen of his other cherished dead trotted 
around the buggy as he went up the hill past home. And that was eleven 
years ago, and I was nine years old; and I stared gravely out the window 
of my father's house at old Doctor Bollard. 

It is the place of the straight stare, the cold white bellies and the buried 
lust of the lovely Boston girls; it is the place of ripe brainless blondes 
with tender lips and a flowery smell, and of the girls with shapely arms 
who stand on ladders picking oranges; it is also the place where large 
slow-bodied girls from Kansas City, with big legs and milky flesh, are 
sent East to school by their rich fathers, and there are also immense and 
lovely girls, with the grip of a passionate bear, who have such names as 
Neilson, Lundquist, Jorgenson, and Brandt. 

/ will go up and down the country, and bac\ and forth across the coun- 
try on the great trains that thunder over America. I will go out West 
where States are square; Oh, I will go to Boise, and Helena and Albu- 
querque. I will go to Montana and the two Da\otas and the unknown 

It is the place of violence and sudden death; of the fast shots in the 
night, the club of the Irish cop, and the smell of brains and blood upon 
the pavement; it is the place of the small-town killings, and the men who 
shoot the lovers of their wives; it is the place where the negroes slash 
tvith razors and the hillmen kill in the mountain meadows; it is the 
place of the ugly drunks and the snarling voices and of foul-mouthed 
men who want to fight; it is the place of the loud word and the foolish 
boast and the violent threat; it is also the place of the deadly little men 
with white faces and the eyes of reptiles, who kill quickly and casually 
in the dark; it is the lawless land that feeds on murder. 

"Did you \now the two Lipe girls?" he as\ed. "Yes" I said. "They 
lived in Biltburn by the river, and one of them was drowned in the food. 
She was a cripple, and she wheeled herself along in a chair. She was 
strong as a bull." "That's the girl" he said. 

It is the place of the crack athletes and of the runners who limber up 
in March; it is the place of the ten-second men and the great jumpers 


and vaulters; it is the place where Spring comes, and the young birch 
trees have white and tender barks, of the thaw of the earth, and the 
feathery smoke of the trees; it is the place of the burst of grass and bud, 
the wild and sudden tenderness of the wilderness, and of the crews out 
on the river and the coaches coming down behind them in the motor' 
boats, the surges rolling out behind when they are gone with heavy 
sudden wash. It is the place of the baseball players, and the easy lob, 
the soft spring smackings of the glove and mit, the crack of the bat; iv 
is the place of the great batters, fielders, and pitchers, of the nigger 
boys and the white, drawling, shirt-sleeved men, the bleachers and the 
resinous smell of old worn wood; it is the place of Rube Waddell, the 
mighty untamed and ill-fated pitcher when his left arm is swinging 
like a lash. It is the place of the fighters, the crafty Jewish lightweights 
and the mauling Italians, Leonard, Tendler, Rocky Kansas, and Dun- 
dee; it is the place where the champion looks over his rival's shoulder 
with a bored expression. 

/ shall wa\e at morning in a foreign land thinking I heard a horse in. 
one of the streets of home. 

It is the place where they like to win always, and boast about their vic- 
tories; it is the place of quick money and sudden loss; it is the place of 
the mile-long freights with their strong, solid, clanking, heavy loneliness 
at night, and of the silent freight of cars that curve away among raw 
piney desolations with their promise of new lands and unknown distances 
the huge attentive gape of emptiness. It is the place where the bums 
come singly from the woods at sunset, the huge stillness of the water- 
tower, the fading light, the rails, secret and alive, and trembling with the 
oncoming train; it is the place of the great tramps, Oklahoma Red, 
Fargo Pete, and the Jersey Dutchman, who grab fast rattlers for the 
Western shore; it is the place of old blown bums who come up in Octo- 
ber skirls of dust and wind and crumpled newspapers and beg, with 
canned heat on their breaths: "Help Old McGuire: McGuire's a good 
guy, kid. You're not so tough, kid : McGuire's your pal, kid : How about 
McGuire, McGuire ?" 

It is the place of the poolroom players and the drug-store boys; of the 
town whore and her paramour, the tough town driver; it is the place 
where they go to the woods on Sunday and get up among the laurel 
and dogwood bushes and the rhododendron blossoms; it is the place 
of the cheap hotels and the kids who wait with chattering lips while 
the nigger goes to get them their first woman; it is the place of the 


drunken college boys who spend the old man's money and wear fur 
coats to the football games; it is the place of the lovely girls up North 
who have rich fathers, of the beautiful wives of business men. 

The train bro\e down somewhere beyond Manassas, and I went for- 
ward along the traces with all the other passengers. "What's the mat- 
ter?" 1 said to the engineer. '"The eccentric strap is broken, son," he said. 
It was a very cold day, windy and full of sparkling sun. This was the 
farthest north I'd ever been, and I was twelve years old and on my way 
to Washington to see Woodrow Wilson inaugurated. Later I could not 
forget the face of the engineer and the words "eccentric strap." 

It is the place of the immense and lonely earth, the place of fat ears 
and abundance where they grow cotton, corn, and wheat, the wine-red 
apples of October, and the good tobacco. 

It is the place that is savage and cruel, but it is also the innocent place; 
it is the wild lawless place, the vital earth that is soaked with the blood 
of the murdered men, with the blood of the countless murdered men, 
with the blood of the unavenged and unremembered murdered men; 
but it is also the place of the child and laughter, where the young men 
are torn apart with ecstasy, and cry out in their throats with joy, whert 
they hear the howl of the wind and the rain and smell the thunder and 
the soft numb spitting of the snow, where they are drunk with the bite 
and sparkle of the air and mad with the solar energy, where they 
believe in love and victory and think that they can never die. 

It is the place where you come up through Virginia on the great trains 
in the night-time, and rumble slowly across the wide Potomac and see 
the morning sunlight on the nation's dome at Washington, and where 
the fat man shaving in the pullman washroom grunts, "What's this? 
What's this we're coming to Washington?" And the thin man glanc- 
ing out the window says, "Yep, this is Washington. That's what it is, 
all right. You gettin' off here ?" And where the fat man grunts, "Who 
me ? Naw I'm goin' on to Baltimore." It is the place where you get 
off at Baltimore and find your brother waiting. 

Where is my father sleeping on the land? Buried? Dead these seven 
years? Forgotten, rotten in the ground? Held by his own great stone? 
No, no! Will I say, "Father" when I come to him ? And will he call me, 
"Son"? Oh, no, he'll never see my face: we'll never spea^ except to 
say . 

It is the place of the fast approach, the hot blind smoky passage, the 
tragic lonely beauty of New England, and the web of Boston; the place 


of the mighty station there, and engines passive as great cats, the straight 
dense plumes of engine smoke, the acrid and exciting smell of trains and 
stations, and of the man-swarm passing ever in its million-footed weft, 
the smell of the sea in harbors and the thought of voyages and the 
place of the goat cry, the strong joy of our youth, the magic city, when 
we knew the most fortunate life on earth would certainly be ours, that 
we were twenty and could never die. 

And always America is the place of the deathless and enraptured mo- 
ments, the eye that looked, the mouth that smiled and vanished, and the 
word; the stone, the leaf, the door we never found and never have for- 
gotten. And these are the things that we remember of America, for we 
have known all her thousand lights and weathers, and we walk the 
streets, we walk the streets forever, we walk the streets of life alone. 


Now at Cambridge, in the house of the Murphy s on Trowbridge 
Street, he found himself living with the Irish for the first time, and he 
discovered that the Murphys were utterly different from all the Irish he 
had known before, and all that he had felt and believed about them. He 
soon discovered that the Murphys were a typical family of the Boston 
Irish. It was a family of five: there were Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, two 
sons and a daughter. Mrs. Murphy ran the house on Trowbridge Street, 
which they owned, and rented the rooms to lodgers, Mr. Murphy was 
night watchman in a warehouse on the Boston waterfront, the girl was 
a typist in an Irish business house in Boston, the older boy, Jimmy, had 
a clerical position in the Boston City Hall, and the youngest boy, Eddy, 
whom the youth knew best, was a student at Boston College. In addition 
there were two Irish lodgers who had lived with them for years: Mr. 
Feeney, a young man who worked at Raymond's, a department store in 
Washington Street, Boston, and Mr. O'Doul, a middle-aged man, un- 
married, who occupied the front room upstairs just over the boy's own 
room. Mr. O'Doul was a civil engineer, he drank very heavily, and he 
would sometimes be confined to his bed for days at a time with terrible 
attacks of rheumatism which would bend, gnarl, and twist him, and 
render him incapable of movement. 

But in the Murphys the boy discovered none of the richness, wild- 
ness, extravagance, and humor of such people as Mike Fogarty, Tim 
Donovan, or the MacReadys the Irish he had known at home. The 
Murphys were hard, sterile, arid, meagre, and cruel: they were dis- 


figured by a warped and infuriated puritanism, and yet they were ter- 
ribly corrupt. There was nothing warm, rich, or generous about them 
or their lives: it seemed as if the living roots of nature had grown 
gnarled and barren among the walls and pavements of the city, it seemed 
that everything that is wild, sudden, capricious, whimsical, passionate, 
and mysterious in the spirit of the race had been dried and hardened 
out of them by their divorce from the magical earth their fathers came 
from, as if the snarl and jangle of the city streets, the barren and earth- 
less angularity of steel and stone and brick, had entered their souls. 
Even their speech had become hard, gray, and sterile: the people were 
almost inarticulate, it is doubtful if one of them had three hundred words 
in his vocabulary: the boy noticed that the men especially Murphy, his 
two sons, Feeney, and O'Doul made constant use of a few arid words 
and phrases, which, with the intonation of the voice, and a slight con- 
vulsive movement of the arms and hands, filled in enormous vacancies 
in thought and feeling, and said all that they could say, or wished to 
say. Chief among these words or phrases was "Yon know ? ... or "You 
know what I mean?" words which were uttered with a slight protest- 
ing emphasis on "You," a slight and painful movement of the hands or 
shoulders, and an air that the listener must fill in for himself all that 
they wanted to imply. For epithets of rich resounding rage, for curses 
thick and opulent with fury, in which he had believed their tongues were 
apt and their spirits prodigal, he discovered that they had no more to 
offer than "Chee!" or "Jccz!" or "Ho-ly Jeez!" or "Christ!" or "Ho-ly 
Christ!" or occasionally "Ho-ly Mary!" Finally, they made a constant 
and stupefying use of that terrible gray abortion of a word "guy": it 
studded their speech with the numberless monotony of paving brick, 
without it they would have been completely speechless and would have 
had to communicate by convulsions of their arms and hands and pain- 
ful croakings from their tongueless throats the word fell upon the 
spirit of the listener with the gray weariness of a cold incessant drizzle, 
it flowed across the spirit like a river of concrete; hope, joy, the power to 
feel and think were drowned out under the relentless and pitiless aridity 
of its flood. 

At first, he thought these words and phrases were part of a meagre 
but sufficient pattern which thev had learned in order to meet the con- 
tingencies of life and business with alien and Protestant spirits, as waiters 
in European cafes, restaurants, and dining-cars will learn a few words 
of English in order to serve the needs of British and American tourists 


he thought this because he saw something sly, closed, conspiratorial, 
mocking and full of hatred and mistrust, in their relations with people 
who were not members of their race and their religion; he thought they 
had a warm, secret and passionate life of their own which never could 
be known by a stranger. But he soon found that this belief was un' 
true: even in their conversations with one another, they were almost in- 
articulate a race which thought, felt, and spoke with the wooden in^ 
sensitivity of automatons or dummies on whose waxen souls a few 
banal formulas for speech and feeling had been recorded. He heard 
some amazing performances: every evening toward six o'clock the 
family would gather in their dingy living-room at the end of the hall, 
Mr. Fceney and Mr. O'Doul would join them, and then he could hear 
the voices of the men raised in argument, protest, agreement, denial, 
affirmation and belief, or skepticism, evoking a ghastly travesty of all. 
of man's living moments of faith, doubt, and passion, and yet speaking 
for hours at a time, with the idiot repetitions of a gramophone held by 
its needle to a single groove, a blunted jargon of fifty meaningless 

"What guy?" 

"Dat guy \" 

"Nah, nah, nah, not him duh otheh guy!" 

"Wich guy do yuh mean duh big guy?" 

"Nah, nah, nah yuh got it all wrong! Not him duh little guy!" 

"Guh-tvan!" a derisive laugh "Guh-wan!" 

" Watcha tryin' t' do %fd me ? Dat guy neveh saw de day he could 
take Grogan. Grogan 'ud bat his brains out." 

"Guh-tt/fl/ Yer full of prunes! . . . Watcha tryin' t' give me? Dat 
guy 'ud neveh take Tommy Grogan in a million yeahs! He couldn't 
take Tommy duh best day he eveh saw! Grogan 'ud have him on de 
floeh in thirty-seconds!" 

"Ho-ly Chee!" 

"Sure he would!" 

"Guh-/tf, Guh-tvan! Yer crazy! Grogan! Ho-ly Chee!" 

And this, with laughter, denial, agreement all the appurtenances of 
conversation among living men could go on unweariedly for hours at 
a time. 

Sometimes he would interrupt these conversations for a moment: he 
would go back to leave a message, to pay the rent, to ask if any one 
had called. 


As soon as he knocked, the voices would stop abruptly, the room would 
grow suddenly hushed, there would be whispers and a dry snickering 
laughter : in a moment some one would say "Come in," and he would 
enter a room full of hushed and suddenly straightened faces. The men 
would sit quietly or say a word or two of greeting, friendly enough in 
appearance, but swift sly looks would pass between them, and around 
the corners of their thin, "hard mouths there would be something loose, 
corrupt and mocking. Mrs. Murphy would arise and come to greet him, 
her voice filled with a false heartiness, an unclean courtesy, a horrible 
and insolent travesty of friendliness, and her face would also have the 
look of having been suddenly straightened out and solemnly compressed, 
she would listen with a kind of evil attention, but she would have che 
same loose, mocking look, and the quiet sly look would pass between 
her and the others. Then, when he had left them, and the door had 
closed behind him, there would be the same sly silence for a moment, 
then a low muttering of words, a sudden violence of hard derisive laugh- 
ter, and some one saying, "Ho-\y Jeez!" 

He despised them: he loathed them because they were dull, dirty, 
and dishonest, because their lives were stupid, barren, and ugly, for their 
deliberate and insolent unfriendliness and for the conspiratorial secrecy 
and closure of their petty and vicious lives, entrenched solidly behind a 
wall of violent and corrupt politics and religious fanaticism, and re- 
garding the alien, the stranger, with the hostile and ignorant eyes of the 

All of the men had a dry, meagre, and brutal quality : Mr. Murphy 
was a little man with a dry, corky figure, he had a gray face, a thin 
sunken mouth, around which the line of loose mockery was always 
playing, and a closely cropped gray moustache. The boy always found 
him in his shirt-sleeves, with his shoes oflf, and his stockinged feet 
thrust out upon, a chair. Feeney, O'Doul, Jimmy and Eddy Murphy, 
although of various sizes, shapes, and ages, all had thick tallowy-look- 
ing skins, hard dull eyes and a way of speaking meagrely out of the 
corners of their loose thin mouths. Mrs. Murphy was physically the 
biggest of the lot, with a certain quality of ripeness and fertility, 
however blighted, that none of the others had: she was a large slat- 
ternly woman, with silvery white hair which gave her somehow a look 
of sly and sinister haggishness; she had a high, flaming color marked 
with patches of eczemic red, her voice was hearty and she had a big 


laugh, but her face also had the false, hostile and conspiratorial secrecy 
of the others. 

Eddy Murphy, the youngest boy, was also the best of the crowd. All 
decent and generous impulse had not yet been killed or deadened in 
him, he still possessed a warped and blunted friendliness, the rudi- 
ments of some youthful feeling for a better, warmer, bolder, and 
more liberal kind of life. As time went on, he made a few awkward, 
shamed, and inarticulate advances toward friendship, he began to come 
into the young man's room from time to time, and presently to tell him 
a little of his life at college and his hopes for the future. He was a little 
fellow, with the same dry, febrile, alert, and corky figure that his father 
had: he was one of the dark Irish, he had black hair, and black eyes, 
and one of his legs was badly bowed and bent outward, the result, he 
said, of having broken it, in a high-school football game. The first time 
he came into the room, he stood around shyly, awkwardly, and mis- 
trustfully for a spell, blurting out a few words from time to time, and 
poking at the books and papers with a kind of dazed and stricken stupe- 

"Watcha do wit all dese books? Huh?" 

"I read them." 

"Guh-wan! Watcha tryin' t* hand me? Y' ain't read all dem books! 
Dey ain't no guy dat's read dat much." 

As a matter of fact, there were only two or three hundred books in the 
place, but he could not have been more impressed if the entire contents 
of the Widener Library had been stored there. 

"Well, I have read them all," the other said. "Most of them, any 
way, and a lot more besides." 

"Gu\\-wan! No kiddin!" he said, in a dazed tone and with an air of 
astounded disbelief. "Watcha want to read so much for?" 

"I like to read. Don't you?" 

"Oh, I don't know. You know," he said painfully, with the slightest 
convulsive movement of his hands and shoulders. ". . . 'S'all right." 

"You have to rend for your classes at Boston College, don't you?" 

"DO 1?" he cried, with a sudden waking to life. "I'll say I do! . , . 
f/o-ly Chee! Duh way dose guys pile it on to you is a crime!" 

There was another awkward silence, he continued to stare at the 
,l)ooks, and to fumble about in an embarrassed and tongue-tied manner, 
and suddenly he burst out explosively and triumphantly : "Shakespeare 
Was de greatest poe/ dat evah lived. He wrote plays an' sonnets. A 


sonnet is a pome of foihteen lines: it is composed of two pahts, de sextet 

an' de octrave." 

"That's pretty good. They must make you work out there?" 
"DO they?" he cried. "I'll tell duh cock-eyed world dey do! ... Do 

you know who de greatest prose-writeh was?" he burst out with the 

same convulsive suddenness. 
"No . . . who was it? Jonathan Swift?'* 

"Addison? . . . Dry den? . . . Matthew Arnold?" the youth asked 

"Guh-u/an, Guh-u/an!" he shouted derisively. "Yuh're way off!" 

"Am I? ... Who was it then?" 

"James Henry Cardinal Nooman," he crowed triumphantly. "Dat's 
who it was! . . . Father Dolan said so. ... Chee! . . . Dey ain't nuttin* 
dat guy don't know! He's duh greatest English scholeh livin'! . . . 
Nooman wrote de Apologia pro Vita Suo" he said triumphantly. 
''Dat's Latin." 

"Well, yes, he is a good writer," said the other boy. "But Thomas 
Carlyle is a good writer, too?" he proposed argumentatively. 

"G\\\\-wan!" shouted Eddy derisively. "Watcha givin' me?" He was 
silent a moment; then he added with a grin, "Yuh know de reason why 
you say dat?" 

"No,' why?" 

"It's because yuh're a Sout'paw," and suddenly he laughed, naturally 
and good-naturedly. 

"A Southpaw ? How do you mean ?" 

"Oh, dat's duh name de fellows call 'em out at school," he said. 


"Why, guys like you," he said. "Dat's de name we call duh Protes- 
tants," he said, laughing. "We call 'em Sout'paws." 

The word in its connotation of a life that was hostile, hard, fanatic, 
jnd suspicious of everything alien to itself was disgraceful and shameful 
but there was something irresistibly funny about it too, and suddenly 
they both laughed loudly. 

After that, they got along together much better: Eddy came in to see 
the other youth quite often, he talked more freely and naturally, and 
sometimes he would bring his English themes and ask for help with 

Such were the Boston Irish as he first saw them; and often as he 


thought of the wild, extravagant and liberal creatures of his childhood 
of Mr. Fogarty, Tim Donovan, and the MacReadys it seemed to 
him that they belonged to a grander and completely different race; or 
perhaps, he thought, the glory of earth and air and sky there had kept 
them ripe and sweet as they always were, while their brothers here had 
withered upon the rootless pavements, soured and sickened in the sav- 
age tumult of the streets, grown hard and dead and ugly in the barren 

The only person near him in the house, and the only person there the 
boy saw with any regularity was a Chinese student named Wang: he 
had the room next to him in fact he had the two next rooms, for he 
was immensely rich, the son of a man in the mandarin class who gov- 
erned one of the Chinese provinces. 

But his habits and conduct were in marked contrast to those of the 
average Oriental who attends an American university. These others, 
studious seekers after knowledge, had come to work. Mr. Wang, a lazy 
and good-humored wastrel with more money than he could spend, had 
come to play. And play he did, with a whole-hearted devotion to pleas 
ure that was worthy of a better purpose. His pleasures were for the most 
part simple, but they were also costly, running to flowered silk dressing 
gowns, expensively tailored clothes cut in a rakish Broadway style, silk 
shirts, five-pound boxes of chocolate creams, of which he was inordi- 
nately fond, week-end trips to New York, stupendous banquets at an 
expensive Chinese restaurant in Boston, phonograph records, of which 
he had a great many, and the companionship of "nice flat girls" by this 
he meant to say his women should be "fat," which apparently was the 
primary requisite for voluptuous pulchritude. 

Mr. Wang himself was just a fat, stupid, indolent, and good-hearted 
child: his two big rooms in the rear of the Murphy establishment were 
lavishly furnished with carved teak-wood, magnificent screens, fat 
divans, couches, and rhcsts. The rooms were always lighted with the 
glow of dim and sensual lamps, there was always an odor of sandal- 
wood and incense, and from time to time one heard Mr. Wang's shrill 
sudden scream of childish laughter. He had two cronies, young Chinese 
who seemed as idle, wealthy, and pleasure-loving as himself; they came 
to his rooms every night, and then one could hear them jabbering and 
chattering away in their strange speech, and sometimes silence, low 
eager whisperings, and then screams of laughter. 


The boy had grown to know the Chinese very well; Mr. Wang had 
*ome to him to seek help on his English composition themes he was 
lot only stupid but thoroughly idle, and would not work at anything 
ind the boy had written several for him. And Mr. Wang, in grateful 
ecompense, had taken him several times to magnificent dinners of 
itrange delicious foods in the Chinese restaurant, and was forever urg- 
ng on him chocolates and expensive cigarettes. And no matter where 
he Chinaman saw him now, whether in his room, or on the street, or 
n the Harvard Yard, he would always greet him with one joke a joke 
le repeated over and over with the unwearied delight of a child or an 
diot. And the joke was this: Mr. Wang would come up slyly, his fat 
'ellow face already beginning to work, his fat throat beginning to 
remble with hysterical laughter. Then, wagging his finger at the 
'oung American, the Chinaman would say : 

"Lest night I see you with big flat girl. . . . Yis, yis, yis," he would 
cream with laughter as the young man started to protest, shaping 
'oluptuous curves meanwhile with his fat yellow hands "Big flat girl 
-like this yis, yis, yis!" he would scream again, and bend double, 
:hoking, stamping at the ground, "nice flat girl like this yis, yis, yis, 
is, yis." 

He had perpetrated this "joke" so often, and at such unseasonable 
>laces, that it had now become embarrassing. He seemed, in fact, to de- 
ight in coming upon his victim while he was in serious conversation 
/ith some dignified-looking person, and he had already caught the bey 
hree times in this way while he was talking to Dodd, to ProfcooOi 
Catcher, and finally to a professor with a starched prim face, who had 
aught American Literature fpr thirty years, and whose name was 
Mjst. Nothing could be done to stop him; protests at the impropriety 
>f the proceeding only served to set him off again, he was delighted at 
he embarrassment he caused and he would shout down every protest 
apturously, screaming, "Yis, yis, yis nice flat girl like this, eh," and 
vould shape fat suggestion with his fat hands. 


The purposes of Professor Hatcher's celebrated school for drama- 
ists seemed, as stated, to be plain and reasonable enough. Professor 
latcher himself prudently forebore from making extravagant claims 
oncerning the benefits to be derived from his course. He did not say 
hat he could make a ctaimtist out of any r^.an who came to take his 


course. He did not predict a successful career in the professional the- 
atre for every student who had been a member of his class. He did not 
even say he could teach a student how to write plays. No. He made, in 
fact, no claims at all. Whatever he said about his course was very rea- 
sonably, prudently, and temperately put: it was impossible to quarrel 
with it. 

All Professor Hatcher said about his course was that, if a man had a 
genuine dramatic and theatric talent to begin with, he might be able to 
derive from the course a technical and critical guidance which it would 
be hard for him to get elsewhere, and which he might find for himself 
only after years of painful and even wasteful experiment. 

Certainly this seemed reasonable enough. Moreover, Professor 
Hatcher felt that the artist would benefit by what was known as the 
"round table discussion" that is by the comment and criticism of the 
various members of the class, after Professor Hatcher had read them a 
play written by one of their group. He felt that the spirit of working 
together, of seeing one's play produced and assisting in the production, 
of being familiar with all the various "arts" of the theatre lighting, de- 
signing, directing, acting, and so on was an experience which should 
be of immense value to the young dramatist of promise and of talent. 
In short, although he made no assertion that he could create a talent 
where none was, or give life by technical expertness to the substance of 
a work that had no real life of its own, Professor Hatcher did feel that 
by the beneficent influence of this tutelage he might trim the true lamp 
to make it burn more brightly. 

And though it was possible to take issue with him on some of his 
beliefs that, for example, the comment and criticism of "the group," 
and a community of creative spirits was good for the artist it was im- 
possible to deny that his argument was reasonable, temperate, and con- 
servative in the statement of his purposes. 

And he made this plain to every member of his class. Each one was 
made to understand that the course made no claims of magic alchemy 
that he could not be turned into an interesting dramatist if the talent 
was not there. 

But although each member of the class affirmed his understanding 
of this fundamental truth, and readilv said that he accepted it, most of 
these people, at the bottom of their hearts, believed pitiably and past 
belief that a miracle would be wrought upon their sterile, unproduc- 
tive spirits, that for them, for them, at least, a magic transformation 


would be brought about in their miserable small lives and feeble 
purposes and all because they now were members of Professor 
Hatcher's celebrated class. 

The members of Professor Hatcher's class belonged to the whole lost 
family of the earth, whose number is uncountable, and for this reason, 
they could never be forgotten. 

And, first and foremost, they belonged to that great lost tribe of people 
who are more numerous in America than in any other country in the 
world. They belonged to that unnumbered horde who think that some- 
how, by some magic and miraculous scheme or rule or formula, "some- 
thing can be clone for them." They belonged to that huge colony of the 
damned who buy thousands of books that are printed for their kind, 
telling them how to run a tea shop, how to develop a pleasing personal- 
ity, how to acquire "a liberal education," swiftly and easily and with 
no anguish of the soul, by fifteen minutes' reading every day, how to 
perform the act of sexual intercourse in such a way that your wife will 
love you for it, how to have children, or to keep from having children, 
how to write short-stories, novels, plays, and verses which are profitably 
salable, how to keep from having body odor, constipation, bad breath, 
or tartar on the teeth, how to have good manners, know the proper 
fork to use for every course, and always do the proper thing how, in 
short, to be beautiful, "distinguished," "smart," "chic," "forceful," and 
"sophisticated" finally, how to have "a brilliant personality" and 
"achieve success." 

Yes, for the most part, the members of Professor Hatchers cbss be- 
longed to this great colony of the lost Americans. They belonged to 
that huge tribe of all the damned and lost who feel that everything is 
going to be all right with them if they can only take a trip, or learn a 
rule, or meet a person. They belonged to that futile, desolate, and for- 
saken horde who felt that all will be well with their lives, that all the 
power they lack themselves will be supplied, and all the anguish, fury, 
and unrest, the confusion and the dark damnation of man's soul can 
magically be healed if only they eat bran for breakfast, secure an in- 
troduction to a celebrated actress, get a reading for their manuscript by 
a friend of Sinclair Lewis, or win admission to Professor Hatcher's 
celebrated class of dramatists. 

And, in a curious way, the plays written by the people in Professor 
Hatcher's class, illustrated, in one form or another, this desire. Few of 
the plays had any intrinsic reality, for most of these people were lacking 


in the first, the last, the foremost quality of the artist, without which he 
is lost : the ability to get out of his own life the power to live and work by, 
to derive from his own experience as a fruit of all his seeing, feeling, 
living, joy and bitter anguish the palpable and living substance of his 

Few of the people in Professor Hatcher's class possessed this power. 
Few of them had anything of their own to say. Their lives seemed to 
have grown from a stony and a fruitless soil and, as a consequence, the 
plays they wrote did not reflect that life, save by a curious and yet il- 
luminating indirection. 

Thus, in an extraordinary way, their plays unreal, sterile, imitative, 
and derivative as most of them indubitably were often revealed more 
about the lives of the people who wrote them than better and more 
living work could do. For, although few of the plays showed any 
contact with reality with that passionate integument of blood and 
sweat and pain and fear and grief "and joy and laughter of which this 
world is made most of them did show, in one way or another, what 
was perhaps the basic impulse in the lives of most of these people the 
impulse which had brought them here to Professor Hatcher's class. 

The impulse of the people in the class was not to embrace life and de- 
vour it, but rather to escape from it. And in one way or another most 
of the plays these people wrote were illustrative of this desire. For in 
these plays unnatural, false, and imitative, as they were one could 
discern, in however pale and feeble a design, a picture of the world not 
as its author had seen and lived and known it, but rather as he wished 
to find it, or believe in it. And, in all their several forms whether sad, 
gay, comic, tragic, or fantastical these plays gave evidence of the denial 
and the fear of life. 

The wealthy young dawdler from Philadelphia, for example, wrote 
plays which had their setting in a charming little French Cafe. Here 
one was introduced to all the gay, quaint, charming Frenchmen to 
Papa Duval, the jolly proprietor, and Mama Duval, his rotund and 
no less jolly spouse, as well as to all the quaint and curious habitues that 
are so prolific in theatrical establishments of this order. One met, as 
well, that fixture of these places: old Monsieur Vernet, the crusty, 
crotchety, but kindly old gentleman who is the cafe's oldest customer 
and has had the same table in the corner by the window for more than 
thirty years. One saw again the familiar development of the comic sit- 
uation the day when Monsieur Vernet enters at his appointed time and 


finds at his table a total stranger, sacrilege! Imprecations! Tears, 
prayers, and entreaties 6n the part of Papa Duval and his wife, to- 
gether with the stubborn refusal of the imperious stranger to move! 
Climax: old Monsieur Vernet storming out of the cafe, swearing that 
he will never return. Resolution of conflict: the efforts of Papa and 
Mamma Duval to bring their most prized customer back into the fold 
again, and their final success, the pacification and return of Monsieur 
Vernet amid great rejoicing, thanks to a cunning stratagem on the part 
of Henri, the young waiter, who wins a reward for all these efforts, the 
hand of Mimi, Papa Duval's charming daughter, from whom he' has 
been separated by Papa Duval's stern decree. 

Thus, custom is restored, and true love re-united by one brilliant 
comic stroke! 

And all this pretty little world, the contribution of a rich young man 
who came from Philadelphia! How perfectly God-damn delightful it 
all was, to be sure! 

The plays of old Seth Flint, the sour and withered ex-reporter, were, 
if of a different coloring, cut from the same gaudy cloth of theatric 
unreality. For forty years old Seth had pounded precincts as a news- 
man, and had known city-rooms across the nation. He had seen 
every crime, ruin, and incongruity of which man's life is capable. He 
was familiar with every trait of graft, with every accursed smell and 
smear of the old red murder which incradicably fouled the ancient soul 
of man, and the stench of man's falseness, treachery, cruelty, hypoc- 
risy, cowardice, and injustice, together with the look of brains and 
blood upon the pavements of the nation, was no new thing to old Seth 

His skin had been withered, his eyes deadened, his heart and spirit 
burdened wearily, his faith made cynical, and his temper soured by the 
black picture of mankind which he had seen as a reporter and because 
of this, in spite of this, he had remained or become how, why, in what 
miraculous fashion no one knew a curiously honest, sweet, and gen- 
erous person, whose life had been the record of a self-less loyalty. He 
had known poverty, hardship, and self-sacrifice, and endured all will- 
ingly without complaint: he had taken the savings of a lifetime to send 
the two sons of his widowed sister to college, he hnd supported this 
woman and her family for years, and now, when his own life was com- 
ing to its close, he was yielding to 'the only self-indulgence he had ever 
known a year away from the city-room of a Denver newspaper, a 


year away in the rare ether, among the precious and aesthetic intellects of 
Professor Hatcher's celebrated course, a year in which to realize the 
dream of a life-time, the vision of his youth a year in which to write 
the plays he had always dreamed of writing. And what kind of plays 
did he write ? 

Alas! Old Seth did exactly what he set out to do, he succeeded per- 
fectly in fulfilling his desire and, by a tragic irony, his failure lay in 
just this fact. The plays which he produced with an astounding and 
prolific ease ("Three days is enough to write a play," the old man said 
in his sour voice. "You guys who take a year to write a play give me 
a pain. If you can't write a play a week, you can't write anything; the 
play's no good") these plays were just the plays which he had dreamed 
of writing as a young man, and therein was evident their irremediablr 

For Seth's plays so neat, brisk, glib, and smartly done would have 
been good plays in a commercial way, as well, if he had only done 
them twenty years before. He wrote, without effort and with unerring 
accuracy, a kind of play which had been immensely popular at the be- 
ginning of the twentieth century, but which people had grown tired of 
twenty years before. He wrote plays in which the babies got mixed up 
in the maternity ward of a great hospital, in which the rich man's child 
goes to the family of the little grocer, and the grocer's child grows up 
as the heir to an enormous fortune, with all the luxuries and securities 
of wealth around him. And he brought about the final resolution of this 
tangled scheme, the meeting of these scrambled children and their be- 
wildered parents, with a skill of complication, a design of plot, a dex- 
terity that was astonishing. His characters all well-known types of the 
theatre, as of nurse tough-spoken, shop-girl slangy, reporter cynical, and 
so on were well conceived to fret their purpose, their lives well-timed 
and apt and deftly made. He had mastered the formula of an older type 
of "well-made play" with astonishing success. Only, the type was dead, 
the interest of the public in such plays had vanished twenty years before. 

So here he was, a live man, writing, with amazing skill, dead plays 
for a theatre that was dead, and for a public that did not exist. 

"Chekhov! Ibsen!" old Seth would whine sourly with a dismissing 
gesture of his parched old hand, and a scornful contortion of his bitter 
mouth in his old mummy of a face. "You guys all make me tired the 
way you worship them!" he would whine out at some of the ex- 
quisite young temperaments in Professor Hatcher's class. "Those guys 


can't write a play! Take Chekhov, now!" whined Seth. "That guy 
never wrote a real play in his life! He never knew how to write a play! 
He couldn't have written a play if he tried! He never learned the rules 
for writing a play! That Cherry Orchard now," whined old Seth 
with a sour sneering laugh, " that Cherry Orchard that you guys 
are always raving about! That's not a play!" he cried indignantly. 
"What ever made you think it was a play? I was trying to read it just 
the other day," he rasped, "and there's nothing there to hold your in- 
terest! It's got no plot! There's no story in it! There's no suspense! 
Nothing happens in it. All you got is a lot of people who do nothing 
but talk all the time. You never get anywhere," said Seth scornfully. 
"And yet to hear you guys rave about it, you'd think it was a great 

"Well, what do you call a great play, then, if The Cherry Orchard 
isn't one?" one of the young men said acidly. "Who wrote the great 
plays that you talk about?" 

"Why George M. Cohan wrote some," whined Seth instantly. "That's 
who. Avery Hopwood wrote some great plays. We've had plenty of 
guys in this country who wrote great plays. If they'd come from Russia 
you'd get down and worship 'em," he said bitterly. "But just because 
they came out of this country they're no good!" 

In the relation of the class towards old Seth Flint, it was possible to 
see the basic falseness of their relation towards life everywhere around 
them. For here was a man whatever his defects as a playwright might 
have been who had lived incomparably the richest, most varied and 
dangerous, and eventful life among them ; as he was himself far more 
interesting than any of the plays they wrote, and as dramatists they 
should have recognized and understood his quality. But they saw none 
of this. For their relation towards life and people such as old Seth 
Flint was not one of understanding. It was not even one of burning 
indignation of that indignation which is one of the dynamic forces 
in the artist's life. It was rather one of supercilious scorn and ridicule. 

They felt that they were "above" old Seth, and most of the other 
people in the world, and for this reason they were in Professor Hatcher's 
class. Of Seth they said : 

"He's really a misfit, terribly out of place here. I wonder why he 


And they would listen to an account of one of Seth's latest errors in 
good taste with the expression of astounded disbelief, the tones of 


stunned incredulity which were coming into fashion about that time 
among elegant young men. 

"Not really! . . . But he never really said that. . . . You can't mean it." 

"Oh, but I assure you, he did!" 

". . . It's simply past belief! ... I can't believe he's as bad as that." 

"Oh, but he is! It's incredible, I know, but you've no idea what he's 
capable of." And so on. 

And yet old Seth Flint was badly needed in that class : his bitter and 
unvarnished tongue caused Professor Hatcher many painful moments, 
but it had its use oh, it had its use, particularly when the play was of 
this nature: 

Irene (slowly with scorn and contempt in her voice). So it has come to 
this! This is all your love amounts to a little petty selfish thing! I had 
thought you were bigger than that, John. 

John (desperately}. But but, my God, Irene what am I to think? I 
found you in bed with him my best friend! {with difficulty). You know 
that looks suspicious, to say the least! 

Irene (softly with amused contempt in her voice). You poor little man I 
And to think I thought your love was so big. 

John {wildly). But I do love you, Irene. That's just the point. 

Irene {with passionate scorn). Love! You don't know what love means! 
Love is bigger than that! Love is big enough for all things, all people. 
(She extends her arms in an all-embracing gesture.) My love takes in the 
world it embraces all mankind! It is glamorous, wild, free as the wind, 

John (slowly). Then you have had other lovers? 

Irene: Lovers come, lovers go. (She mattes an impatient gesture.) What 
is that? Nothing! Only love endures my love which is greater than all. 

Eugene would writhe in his seat, and clench his hands convulsively. 
Then he would turn almost prayerfully to the bitter, mummied face of 
old Seth Flint for that barbed but cleansing vulgarity that always fol- 
lowed such a scene: 

"Well?" Professor Hatcher would say, putting down the manuscript 
he had been reading, taking off his eye-glasses (which were attached to 
a ribbon of black silk) and looking around with a quizzical smile, an im- 
passive expression on his fine, distinguished face. "Well?" he would say 
again urbanely, as no one answered. "Is there any comment! 3 " 

"What is she?" Seth would break the nervous silence with his rasp- 
ing snarl. "Another of these society whores? You know," he con- 
tinued, "you can find plenty of her kind for three dollars a throw 
without any of that fancy palaver." 


Some of the class smiled faintly, painfully, and glanced at each other 
with slight shrugs of horror; others were grateful, felt pleasure well in 
them and said underneath their breath exultantly : 

"Good old Seth! Good old Seth!" 

"Her love is big enough for all things, is it?" said Seth. "I know a 
truck driver out in Denver I'll match against her any day." 

Eugene and Ed Horton, a large and robust aspirant from the Iowa 
cornlands, roared with happy laughter, poking each other sharply in 
the ribs. 

"Do you think the play will act?" some one said. "It seems to me 
that it comes pretty close to closet drama." 

"If you ask me," said Seth, "it comes pretty close to water-closet 
drama. . . . No," he said sourly. "What that boy needs is a little experi- 
ence. He ought to go out and get him a woman and get all this stuff 
off his mind. After that, he might sit down and write a play." 

For a moment there was a very awkward silence, and Professor 
Hatcher smiled a trifle palely. Then, taking his eyeglasses with a dis- 
tinguished movement, he looked around and said : 

"Is there any other comment?" 


OFTEN during these years of fury, hunger, and unrest, when he was 
trying to read all the books and know all the people, he would live for 
days, and even for weeks, in a world of such mad and savage concen- 
tration, such terrific energy, that time would pass by him incredibly, 
while he tried to eat and drink the earth, stare his way through walls 
of solid masonry into the secret lives of men, until he had made the 
substance of all life his own. 

And during all this time, although he was living a life of the most 
savage conflict, the most blazing energy, wrestling day by day with 
the herculean forces of the million-footed city, listening to a million 
words and peering into a hundred thousand faces, he would neverthe- 
less spend a life of such utter loneliness that he would go for days at a 
time without seeing a face or hearing a voice that he knew, and until the 
sound of his own voice seemed strange and phantasmal to him. 

Then suddenly he would seem to awake out of this terrific vision, 
which had been so savage, mad, and literal that its very reality had 


a fabulous and dreamlike quality, and time, strange million-visaged 
time, had been telescoped incredibly, so that weeks had passed by like a 
single day. He would awake out of this living dream and see the min- 
utes, hours, and days, and all the acts and faces of the earth pass by him 
in their usual way. And instantly, when this happened, he would feel a 
bitter and intolerable loneliness a loneliness so acrid, gray, and bitter* 
that he could taste its sharp thin crust around the edges of his mouth like 
the taste and odor of weary burnt-out steel, like a depleted storage bat- 
tery or a light that had gone dim, and he could feel it grayly and in- 
tolerably in his entrails, the conduits of his blood, and in all the sub- 
stance of his body. 

When this happened, he would feel an almost unbearable need to hear 
the voice and see the face again of some one he had known and at such 
a time as this he would go to see his Uncle Bascom, that strange and 
extraordinary man who, born like the others in the wilderness, the hills 
of home, had left these hills forever. 

Bascom now lived alone with his wife (for his four children were 
grown and would have none of him) in a dingy section of one of the 
innumerable suburbs that form part of the terrific ganglia of Boston, 
and it was here that the boy would often go on Sundays. 

After a long confusing journey that was made by subway, elevated, 
and street car, he would leave the chill and dismal street car at the 
foot of a hill on a long, wide, and frozen street lined with tall rows of 
wintry elms, with smoky wintry houses that had a look of solid, closed 
and mellow warmth, and with a savage frozen waste of tidal waters on 
the right those New England waters that are so sparkling, fresh and 
glorious, like a tide of sapphires, in the springtime, and so grim and 
savage in their frozen desolation in the winter. 

Then the street car would bang its draughty sliding doors together, 
grind harshly off with its cargo of people with pinched lips, thin red 
pointed noses, and cod-fish faces, and vanish, leaving him with the kind 
of loneliness and absence which a street car always leaves when it has 
gone, and he would turn away from the tracks along a dismal road or 
street that led into the district where his uncle had his house. And 
stolidly he would plunge forward against the gray and frozen desolation 
of that place, to meet him. 

And at length he would pause before his uncle's little house, and as 
he struck the knocker, he was always glad to hear the approaching 
patter of his Aunt Louise's feet, and cheered by the brightening glance 


of her small birdy features, as she opened the door for him, inwardly 
exultant to hear her confirm in her bright lady-like tones his own pre- 
diction of what she would say: "Oh, theah you ah! I was wondering 
what was keeping you." 

A moment later he would be greeted from the cellar or the kitchen by 
his uncle Bascom's high, husky and yet strangely remote yell, the voice 
of a prophet calling from a mountain: 

"Hello, Eugene, my boy. Is that you?" And a moment later the old 
man would appear, coming up to meet him from some lower cellar- 
depth, swearing, muttering, and banging doors; and he would come to- 
ward him howling greetings, buttoned to his chin in the frayed and 
faded sweater, gnarled, stooped and frosty-looking, clutching his great 
hands together at his waist; then hold one gaunt hand out to him 
and howl: 

"Hello, hello, hello, sit down, sit down, sit down." after which, for 
no apparent reason, he would contort his gaunt face in a horrible gri- 
mace, convolve his amazing rubbery lips, and close his eyes and his 
mouth tightly and laugh through his nose in forced snarls: "Phuh! 
Phuh! Phuh! Phuh! Phuh!" 

Bascom Pentland had been the scholar of his amazing family: he was 
a man of powerful intelligence and disordered emotions. Even in his 
youth, his eccentricities of dress, speech, walk, manner had made him 
an object of ridicule to his Southern kinsmen, but their ridicule was 
streaked with pride, since they accepted the impact of his personality as 
another proof that theirs was an extraordinary family. "He's one of 
'em, all right," they said exultantly, "queerer than any of us!" 

Bascom's youth, following the war between the States, had been 
seared by a bitter poverty, at once enriched and warped by a life that 
clung to the earth with a root-like tenacity, that was manual, painful, 
spare and stricken, and that rebuilt itself fiercely, cruelly, and richly 
from the earth. And, because there burned and blazed in him from the 
first a hatred of human indignity, a passionate avowal of man's highness 
and repose, he felt more bitterly than the others the delinquencies of his 
father, and the multiplication of his father's offspring, who came regu- 
larly into a world of empty cupboards. 

"As each of them made its unhappy entrance into the world," he 
would say later, his voice tremulous with passion, "I went out into the 
woods striking my head against the trees, and blaspheming God in my 


anger. Yes, sir," he continued, pursing his long lip rapidly against his 
few loose upper teeth, and speaking with an exaggerated pedantry of 
enunciation, "I am not ashamed to confess that I did. For we were living 
in conditions un-worthy unworthy" his voice rising to an evangelical 
yell, "I had almost said of the condition of animals. And say what 
do you think?" he said, with a sudden shift in manner and tone, be- 
coming, after his episcopal declaration, matter of fact and whisperingly 
confidential. "Why, do you know, my boy, at one time I had to take my 
own father aside, and point out to him we were living in no way be- 
coming decent people." Here his voice sank to a whisper, and he tapped 
Eugene on the knee with his big, stiff finger, grimacing horribly and 
pursing his lip against his dry upper teeth. 

Poverty had been the mistress of his youth and Bascom Pentland had 
not forgotten : poverty had burned its way into his heart. He took what 
education he could find in a backwoods school, read everything he could, 
taught, for two or three years, in a country school and, at the age of 
twenty-one, borrowing enough money for railway fare, went to Boston 
to enroll himself at Harvard. And, somehow, because of the fire that 
burned in him, the fierce determination of his soul, he had been admit- 
ted, secured employment waiting on tables, tutoring, and pressing every 
one's trousers but his own, and lived in a room with two other starved 
wretches on $3.50 a week, cooking, eating, sleeping, washing, and study- 
ing in the one place. 

At the end of seven years he had gone through the college and the 
school of theology, performing brilliantly in Greek, Hebrew, and 

Poverty, fanatical study, the sexual meagreness of his surroundings, 
had made of him a gaunt zealot: at thirty he was a lean fanatic, a true 
Yankee madman, high-boned, with gray thirsty eyes and a thick flar- 
ing sheaf of oaken hair six feet three inches of gangling and ludicrous 
height, gesticulating madly and obliviously before a grinning world. 
But he had a grand lean head: he looked somewhat like the great Ralph 
Waldo Emerson with the brakes off. 

About this time, he married a young Southern woman of a good 
family: she was from Tennessee, her parents were both dead, and in the 
'seventies she had come North and had lived for several years with an 
uncle in Providence, who had been constituted guardian of her estate, 
amounting, probably to about $75,000, although her romantic memory 
later multiplied the sum to $200,000. The man squandered part of her 


money and stole the rest: she came, therefore, to Bascom without much 
dowry, but she was pretty, bright, intelligent, and had a good figure. 
Bascom smote the walls of his room with bloody knuckles, and fell 
down before God. 

When Bascom met her she was a music student in Boston: she had 
a deep full-toned contralto voice which was wrung from her somewhat 
tremulously when she sang. She was a small woman, birdlike and 
earnest, delicately fleshed and boned, quick and active in her movements 
and with a crisp tart speech which still bore, curiously, traces of a 
Southern accent. She was a brisk, serious, lady-like little person, without 
much humor, and she was very much in love with her gaunt suitor. 
They saw each other for two years : they went to concerts, lectures, ser- 
mons; they talked of music, poetry, philosophy and of God, but they 
never spoke of love. But one night Bascom met her in the parlor of her 
boarding house on Huntington Avenue, and with a voice vibrant and 
portentous with the importance of the words he had to utter, began as 
follows: "Miss Louise!" he said carefully, gazing thoughtfully over the 
apex of his hands, "there comes a time when a man, having reached 
an age of discretion and mature judgment, must begin to consider one 
of the gravest yes! by all means one of the most important events in 
human life. The event I refer to is matrimony." He paused, a clock 
was beating out its punctual measured tock upon the mantel, and a 
horse went by with ringing hoofs upon the street. As for Louise, she 
sat quietly erect, with dignified and lady-like composure , but it seemed 
to her that the clock was beating in her own breast, and that it might 
cease to beat at any moment. 

"For a minister of the gospel," Bascom continued, "the decision is 
particularly grave because, for him once made, it is irrevocable, once 
determined upon, it must be followed inexorably, relentlessly aye! to 
the edge of the grave, to the uttermost gates of death, so that the possi- 
bility of an error in judgment is fraught," his voice sinking to a boding 
whisper "is fraught with the most terrible consequences. Accordingly," 
Uncle Bascom said in a deliberate tone, "having decided to take this 
step, realizing to the full to the full, mind you its gravity, I have 
searched my soul, I have questioned my heart. I have gone up into the 
mount-ings and out into the desert and communed with my Ma\er 
until," his voice rose like a demon's howl, "there no longer remains an 
atom of doubt, a particle of uncertainty, a vestige of disbelief Miss 
Louise, I have decided that the young lady best fitted in every way to 


be my helpmate, the partner of my joys and griefs, the confidante of my 
dearest hopes, the in-^/r-a-tion of my noblest endeavors, the companion 
o my declining years, and the spirit that shall accompany me along 
each step of life's vexed and troubled way, sharing with me whatever 
God in his inscrutable Providence shall will, whether of wealth or 
poverty, grief or happiness I have decided, Miss Louise, that that lady 
must be yourself! and, therefore, I request," he said slowly and 
impressively, "the honor of your hand in mar-ri-age." 

She loved him, she had hoped, prayed, and agonized for just such a 
moment, but now that it had come she rose immediately with lady-like 
dignity, and said : "Mistah Pentland : I am honuhed by this mahk of yoah 
esteem and affection, and I pwomise to give it my most unnest con- 
sidahwation without delay. I wealize fully, Mistah Pentland, the 
gwavity of the wuhds you have just uttuhed. Foh my paht, I must tell 
you, Mistah Pentland, that if I accept yoah pwoposal, I shall come to 
you without the fawchun which was wightiully mine, but of which I 
have been depwived and defwauded by the wascality yes! the tvascality 
of my gahdian. I shall come to you, theahfoh, without the dow'y I had 
hoped to be able to contwibute to my husband's fawchuns." 

"Oh, my dear Miss Louise! My dear young lady!" Uncle Bascorr 
cried, waving his great hand through the air with a dismissing gesture. 
"Do not suppose do not for one instant suppose, I beg of you! that 
consideration of a monetary nature could influence my decision. Oh, 
not in the slightest!" he cried. "Not at all, not at all!" 

"Fawchnatly," Louise continued, "my inhewitance was not wholly 
dissipated by this scoundwel. A pohtion, a vewy small pohtion, re- 


"My dear girl! My dear young lady!" Uncle Bascom cried. "It is not 
of the slightest consequence. . . . How much did he leave?" he added. 

Thus they were married. 

Bascom immediately got a church in the Middle West: good pay and 
a house. But during the course of the next twenty years he was shifted 
from church to church, from sect to sect to Brooklyn, then back to the 
Middle West, to the Dakotas, to Jersey City, to Western Massachusetts, 
and finally back to the small towns surrounding Boston. 

When Bascom talked, you may be sure God listened: he preached 
magnificently, his gaunt face glowing from the pulpit, his rather high, 
enormously vibrant voice husky with emotion. His prayers were fierce 
solicitations of God, so mad with fervor that his audiences uncomfort' 


ably felt they came close to blasphemy. But, unhappily, on occasions his 
own mad eloquence grew too much for him: his voice, always too near 
the heart of passion, would burst in splinters, and he would fall violently 
forward across his lectern, his face covered by his great gaunt fingers, 
sobbing horribly. 

This, in the Middle West, where his first church had been, does not 
go down so well yet it may be successful if one weeps mellowly, joy- 
fully smiling bravely through the tears at a lovely aisle processional of 
repentant sinners; but Bascom, who chose uncomfortable titles for his 
sermons, would be overcome by his powerful feelings on those occasions 
when his topic was "Potiphar's Wife," "Ruth, the Girl in the Corn." 
"The Whore of Babylon," "The Woman on the Roof," and so on. 

His head was too deeply engaged with his conscience he was in turn 
Episcopal, Presbyterian, Unitarian, searching through the whole roaring 
confusion of Protestantism for a body of doctrine with which he could 
agree. And he was forever finding it, and later forever renouncing what 
he had found. At forty, the most liberal of Unitarians, the strains of 
agnosticism were piping madly through his sermons: he began to hint 
at his new faith in prose which he modelled on the mighty utterance of 
Carlyle, and in poetry, in what he deemed the manner of Matthew 
Arnold. His professional connection with the Unitarians, and indeed 
with the Baptists, Methodists, Holy Rollers, and Seventh Day Ad- 
ventists, came to an abrupt ending after he read from his pulpit one 
morning a composition in verse entitled "The Agnostic," which made up 
in concision what it lacked in melody, and which ended each stanza 
sadly, but very plainly, on this recurrence: 

"I do not know: 
It may be so.'* 

Thus, when he was almost fifty, Bo scorn Pentland stopped preaching 
in public. There was no question where he was going. He had his 
family's raging lust for property. He became a "conveyancer"; he ac- 
quired enough of the law of property to convey titles; but he began to 
buy pieces of land in the suburbs of Boston, and to build small cheap 
houses, using his own somewhat extraordinary designs to save the 
architect's fees and, wherever possible, doing such odd jobs as laying the 
foundations, installing the plumbing, and painting the structure. 

The small houses that he no, he did not build them! he went 
through the agonies of monstrous childbirth to produce them, he licked, 


nursed, and fondled them into stunted growth, and he sold them on 
long, but profitable terms to small Irish, Jewish, Negro, Belgian, Italian 
and Greek laborers and tradesmen. And at the conclusion of a sale, or 
after receiving from one of these men the current payment, Uncle Bas- 
com went homeward in a delirium of joy, shouting in a loud voice, to 
all who might be compelled to listen, the merits of the Jews, Belgians, 
Irish, Swiss or Greeks. 

"Finest people in the world! No question about it!" this last being 
his favorite exclamation in all moments of payment or conviction. 

For when they paid, he loved them. Often on Sundays they would 
come to pay him tramping over the frozen ground or the packed snow 
through street after street of smutty gray-looking houses in the flat 
weary-looking suburb where he lived. To this dismal heath, therefore, 
they rame, the swarthy children of a dozen races, clad in the hard and 
decent blacks in which the poor pay debts and go to funerals. They 
would advance across the barren lands, the harsh sere earth scarred with 
its wastes of rust and rubbish, going stolidly by below the blank board 
fences of a brick yard, crunching doggedly through the lanes of dirty 
rutted ice, passing before the gray besmutted fronts of wooden houses 
which in their stark, desolate, and unspeakable ugliness seemed to give 
a complete and final utterance to an architecture of weariness, sterility 
and horror, so overwhelming in its absolute desolation that it seemed 
as if the painful and indignant soul of man must sicken and die at length 
before it, stricken, stupefied, and strangled without a tongue to articu- 
late the curse that once had blazed in him. 

And at length they would pause before the old man's little house one 
of a street of little houses which he had built there on the barren flatlands 
of the suburb, and to which he had given magnificently his own name 
Pentland Heights although the only eminence in all that flat and 
weary waste was an almost imperceptible rise a half mile off. And 
here along this street which he had built, these little houses, warped, 
yet strong and hardy, seemed to burrow down solidly like moles 
for warmth into the ugly stony earth on which they were built and to 
cower and huddle doggedly below the immense and terrible desolation 
of the northern sky, with its rimy sun-hazed lights, its fierce and cruel 
rags and stripes of wintry red, its raw and savage harshness. And then, 
gripping their greasy little wads of money, as if in the knowledge that all 
reward below these fierce and cruel skies must be wrenched painfully 
and minutely from a stony earth, they went in to pay him. He would 


come up to meet them from some lower cellar-depth, swearing, mutter- 
ing, and banging doors; and he would come toward them howling 
greetings, buttoned to his chin in the frayed and faded sweater, gnarled, 
stooped and frosty-looking, clutching his great hands together at his 
waist. Then they would wait, stiffly, clumsily, fingering their hats, while 
with countless squints and grimaces and pursings of the lip, he scrawled 
aut painfully their receipts their fractional release from debt and labor, 
one more hard-won step toward the freedom of possession. 

At length, having pocketed their money and finished the transaction, 
he would not permit them to depart at once, he would howl urgently at 
them an invitation to stay, he would offer long weedy-looking cigars to 
them, and they would sit uncomfortably, crouching on their buttock 
bones like stalled oxen, at the, edges of chairs, shyly and dumbly staring 
at him, while he howled question, comment, and enthusiastic tribute at 

"Why, my dear sir!" he would yell at Makropolos, the Greek. "You 
have a glorious past, a history of which any nation might well be proud!" 

"Sure, sure!" said Makropolos, nodding vigorously. "Beeg Heestory!" 

"The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!" the old man howled, "where 
>urning Sappho loved and sung " (Phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh! phuh!) 

"Sure, sure!" said Makropolos again, nodding good-naturedly but 
ivrinkling his lowering finger Vbreadth of brow in a somewhat puzzled 
Fashion. "Tha's right! You got it!" 

"Why, my dear sir!" Uncle Bascom cried. "It has been the ambition of 
my lifetime to visit those hallowed scenes, to stand at sunrise on the 
Axropolis, to explore the glory that was Greece, to see the magnificent 
ruins of the noblest of ancient civ-i-//z-a-tions!" 

For the first time a dark flush, a flush of outraged patriotism, began to 
)urn upon the swarthy yellow of Mr. Makropolos's cheek : his manner 
Became heavy and animated, and in a moment he said with passionate 

"No, no, no! No ruin! Wat you t'ink, eh! Athens fine town! We got 
i million pipples dere!" He struggled for a word, then cupped his hairy 
paws indefinitely: "You know? Beeg! O, ni-ez!" he added greasily, with 
i smile. "Everyt'ing good ! We got everyt'ing good dere as you got here! 
You know?" he said with a confiding and painful effort. "Everyt'ing 
ii-ez! Not old! No, no, no! "he cried with a rising and indignant vigor. 
'New! de same as here. Ni-ez! You get good and cheap everyt'ing! 
Beeg place, new house, dumbwaiter* elevator wat chew like! oh, 


. .aid earnestly. "Wat chew t'ink it cost, eh ? Feefateen dollar a 

' bure, sure! "he nodded with a swarthy earnestness. "I wouldn't 


..Finest people on earth!" Uncle Bascom cried with an air of great 
conviction and satisfaction. "No question about it!" and he would 
usher his visitor to the door howling farewells into the terrible desolation 
of those savage skies. 

Meanwhile, Aunt Louise, although she had not heard a word of what 
was said, although she had listened to nothing except the periods of 
Uncle Bascom's heavily accented and particular speech, kept up a con- 
stant snuffling laughter punctuated momently by faint whoops as she bent 
over her pots and pans in the kitchen, pausing from time to time as if 
to listen, and then snuffling to herself as she shook her head in pitying 
mirth which rose again up to the crisis of a faint crazy cackle as she 
scoured the pan; because, of course, during the forty-five years of her 
life with him she had gone thoroughly, imperceptibly, and completely 
mad, and no longer knew or cared to know whether these words had 
just been spoken or were the echoes of lost voices long ago. 

And again, she would pause to listen, with her small birdlike features 
uplifted gleefully in a kind of mad attentiveness as tt e door slammed 
and he stumped muttering back into the house, intent upon the secret 
designs of his own life, as remote and isolate from her as if they had 
each dwelt on separate planets, although the house they lived in was a 
small one. 

Such had been the history of the old man. His life had come up from 
the wilderness, the buried past, the lost America. The potent mystery of 
old events and moments had passed around him, and the magic light 
of dark time fell across him. 

Like all men in this land, he had been a wanderer, an exile on the 
immortal earth. Like all of us he had no home. Wherever great wheels 
carried him was home. 

As the old man and his nephew talked together, Louise would pre- 
pare the meal in the kitchen, which gave on the living-room where 
they ate, by a swing door that she kept open, in order that she might 
hear what went on. And, while they waited, Uncle Bascom would talk 
to the boy on a vast range of subjects, dealing with that literature in 
which he had once been deep the poetry of the Old Testament, the 


philosophy of Hegel, Carlyle, and Matthew Arnold, whom he wor- 
shipped, or some question in the daily papers. 

Uncle Bascom, seated, his fine gaunt face grave, magnificently com- 
posed now above his arched gnarled hands, spoke with eloquent delibera- 
tion. He became triumphant reasoning mind: he talked with superb 
balanced judgment. All the tumult and insanity of his life had been for- 
gotten: no question of money or of self was involved. Meanwhile, from 
the kitchen Aunt Louise kept up a constant snuffling laughter, punc- 
tuated momently by faint whoops. She was convinced, of course, that 
her husband was mad and all his opinions nonsensical. Yet she had not 
listened to a word of what he was saying, but only to the sound of his 
heavily accented, precise, and particular speech. From time to time, 
snuffling to herself she would look in on Eugene, trembling with 
laughter, and shake her head at him in pitying mirth. 

"Beyond a doubt! Beyond a doubt!" Uncle Bascom would say. "The 
quality of the best writing in the books of the Old Testament may 
take rank with the best writing that has ever been done, but you are 
right in believing, too, the amount of great writing is less than it is 
commonly supposed to be. There are passages, nay! boo\s" his voice 
rising strangely to a husky howl "of the vilest rubbish Noah, Shem, 
Ham and Japheth O vile! vile!" he cried. . . . "And Azariah begat 
Amariah and Amariah begat Ahitub (Phuh! Phuh! Phuh!). Ahitub? 
he sneered. "And Azariah begat Seraiah, and Seraiah begat Jeho- 
zadak (Phuh! Phuh! Phuh!) Jehozada1(' he sneered with his 
precise articulation, finally letting out the last syllable with a kind of 
snarling contempt. "Can you imagine, can you even dream," he howled, 
"of calling any one a name like that! 'And Jehozadak went into cap- 
tivity' as, indeed, he ought! (phuh! phuh! phuh!) his very name 
would constitute a penal offense! (Phuh! Phuh! Phuh!) Je^ozadak!" 
Uncle Bascom sneered. "But," he proceeded deliberately in a moment, 
as he stared calmly over his great arched hands, " but the quality of 
some of the language is God-intoxicated: the noblest poetry ever chanted 
in the service of eternity." 

"The Book of Wevelations," cried Aunt Louise, suddenly rushing out 
of the kitchen with a carving knife in her hand, having returned to 
earth for a moment to hear him. "The Book of Wevelations!" she said 
in a hoarse whisper, her mouth puckered with disgust. "Eugene! A 
wicked, bloo-o-edy, kwu-u-el monument to supahstition. Twibute to 
an avenging and muh-duh-wous Gawd!" The last word uttered in a 


hoarse almost inaudible whisper would find his aunt bent double, 
clutching a knife in one hand, with her small bright eyes glaring madly 
at us. 

"Oh no, my dear, oh no," said Uncle Bascom, with astonishing, 
unaccustomed sadness, with almost exquisite gentleness. And, his 
vibrant passionate voice thrilling suddenly with emotion, he added: 

"The triumphant music of one of the mightiest of earth's poets: the 
sublime utterance of a man for whom God had opened the mysteries 
of heaven and hell." 

He paused a moment, then quietly in a remote voice in that remote 
and magnificent voice which could thrill men so deeply when it uttered 
poetry, he continued : " 'I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the 
beginning and the end' the mightiest line, my dear boy, the most 
magnificent poetry, that was ever written." And suddenly Uncle Bas- 
com threw his gaunt hands before his face, and wept in strong hoarse 
sobs: "Oh, my God, my God! the beauty, the pity of it all! ... You 
must pardon me," he whispered after a moment, drawing his faded 
sweater sleeve across his eyes. "You must pardon me. It brought back 


Aunt Louise, who had been stricken with a kind of fear and horror 
when he began to weep, now looked at Eugene with an expression of 
strong physical disgust, almost of nausea, shaking her head slightly in 
an affronted and lady-like manner as might one who, having achieved 
healthy and courageous discipline over all the excesses of emotion, feels 
only contempt for him who gives way to them. 

She retired now with exaggerated dignity to the kitchen, served the 
.meal, and addressed Eugene for some time thereafter with absurd quiet- 
ness and restraint of manner, and a kind of stifl primness about her 
backbone. She was an excellent cook; there was magic in her treatment 
of food, and on the occasions when Eugene was coming out, she insisted 
that Bascom get her a decent piece of meat to work with. 

There would be a juicy fragrant piece of lamb, or a boiled leg of 
mutton with currant jelly, or perhaps a small crisply browned roast of 
beef, with small flaky biscuits, smoking hot, two or three vegetables, and 
rich coffee. Uncle Bascom, quite unperturbed by his outbreak, would 
stamp into the kitchen, where he could be heard swearing and mutter- 
ing to himself, as he searched for various things. Later he would appear 
at the table bearing a platter filled with some revolting mess of his own 
concoction, a mixture of raw vegetables, chopped up onions, carrots. 


beans, and raw potatoes for he had the full strength of his family's 
mania concerning food, violent prejudices about its preparation, and 
deep-seated distrust of everybody's cleanliness but his own. 

"Have some, my boy. Have some!" he would yell huskily, seating 
himself, and lunging toward Eugene with the awful mess, in a gesture 
of violent invitation. 

"Thank you, no." Eugene would try to keep his eyes averted from 
the mess, and focus on the good food heaping his plate. 

"You may eat that slop if you want to," Uncle Bascom would exclaim 
with a scornful and sneering laugh. "It would give me my death of 
dyspepsia." And the silence of their eating would be broken by the re- 
current snuffling whoops of Aunt Louise, accompanied by many pitying 
looks and head-shakes as she trembled with laughter and hid her mouth, 

Or, suddenly, in the full rich progress of the meal, Eugene would be 
shocked out of his pleasure in the food by the mad bright eyes of Aunt 
Louise bearing fiercely down upon him : 

"Eugene! don't bwood, boy! Don't bwood! You've got it in you 
it's in the blood! You're one of them. You're one of them! a Pentland" 
she croaked fatally. 

"Ah-h you don't know what you're talking about" thus suddenly in 
fierce distemper Uncle Bascom. "Scotch! Scotch-Irishl Finest people on 
earth! No question about it whatever." 

"Fugitive ideation! Fugitive ideation," she chattered like a monkey 
over a nut. "Mind goes off in all diwections. Can't stick to anything 
five minutes at a time. The same thing that's wong with the moduhn 
decadents. Wead Nordau's book, Eugene. It will open yoah eyes," and 
she whispered hoarsely again: "You're ovah-sexed all of you!" 

"Bosh Bosh!" growled Uncle Bascom. "Some more of your psychol- 
ogy the bastard of superstition and quackery : the black magic of little 
minds the effort of a blind man (phuh! phuh! phuh!) crawling about 
in a dark room (phuh! phuh!) looking for a blac\ cat (phuh! phuh!) 
that isn't there'/ he yelled triumphantly, and closed his eyes and snarled 
and snuffled down his nose with laughter. 

He knew nothing about it: occasionally he still read Kant, and he 
could be as deep in absolute categories, moments of negation, and defini- 
tions of a concept, as she with all of her complicated and extensive para- 
phernalia of phobias, complexes, fixations, and repressions. 

"Well, Eugene," thus Aunt Louise with light raillery and yet with 
eager curiosity, "have you found you a nice wosy-cheeked New England 


gul yet? You had bettah watch out, boy! I tell you, you had bettah 
watch out! she declared, kittenishly, wagging her finger at him, before 
he had time to answer. 

"If he has," said Uncle Bascom grimly, "he will find her sadly lacking 
in the qualities of delicacy, breeding, and womanly decorum that the 
Southern girl has. Oh, yes! No question about that whatever!" for 
Uncle Bascom still had the passionate loyalty and sentimental affection 
for the South that many Southerners have who could not be induced, 
under any circumstances, to return. 

"Take a Nawthun gul, Eugene." Aunt Louise became at once com- 
bative. "They're bettah for you! They are bettah. They are bettahl" 
she declared, shaking her head in an obdurate manner, as if further 
argument was useless. "Moah independence! Bettah minds! They 
won't choke yoah life out by hanging awound yoah neck," she concluded 

"I will tell you a story," Uncle Bascom continued deliberately as if 
she had not spoken, "that will illustrate admirably what I mean." Here 
he cleared his throat, as if he were preparing to deliver a set speech, and 
began in a deliberate and formal tone, "Some years ago I had occasion 
to go to Portland, Maine, on business. When I arrived at the North 
Station I found a crowd waiting before the window: it was necessary 
for me to wait in line. I was carrying a small valise which I placed on 
the floor between my legs in order to get out the money for my ticket. 
At this moment, the woman who stood behind me, apparently not 
given to noticing very well where she was going," he snarled bitterly, 
"started to move forward and stubbed her toe against the valise. Before 
I had time to turn around and apologize" he stopped abruptly, then, 
leaning forward with a horrible grimace, he tapped Eugene stiffly with 
his great bony fingers and continued in a lowered voice : "Say! Have you 
any idea what she did, my boy?" 

"No," Eugene said. 

"Why I give you my word, my boy," he whispered solemnly, "without 
so much as 'By your leave,' she lifted her leg and \icJ{ed me, \ic\ed 
me"he howled, "in the stern! And she, my boy, was a New England 


"Whoo-o-op!" Aunt Louise was off again, rocking back and forth, 
holding her napkin over her mouth. 
"Can you imagine, can you dream," said Bascom, his voice an intense 


whisper of disgust, "of a Southern lady, the flower of modesty and the 
old aristocracy, doing such a thing as that?" 

"Yes-s," hissed Aunt Louise, her cackle subsiding) leaning intensely 
across the table and glaring at him, "and it suhved you wight! It suhved 
you wight! It suhved you wight! These things would nevah happen if 
you thought of any one's convenience but yoah own. What wight did 
you have to put yoah baggage there? What wight?" 

"Ah," he replied, with a kind of precise snarl, profoundly contemptu- 
ous of her opinion, "you-don't-know-what-you're-talk-ing-about! What 
right? she says Why all the right in the world," he yelled. "Have you 
ever read the conditions enumerated upon the back of railway tickets 
concerning the transportation of baggage?" 

"Suttinly not!" she retorted crisply. "One does not need to wead the 
backs of wailway tickets to learn how to behave like a civilized pusson!" 

"Well, I will tell them to you," said Uncle Bascom, licking his lips, 
and with a look of joy upon his face. And, at great length, with infinite 
gusto, lip-pursing, and legal pedantry of elocution, he would enumerate 
them all. 

"And say, by the way, Eugene," he would continue without a halt, 
"there is a very charming young lady who occasionally comes to my 
office (with her mother, of course) who is very anxious to meet you. She 
is a musician : she appears quite often in public. They live in Melrose, 
but they came, originally, I believe, from New Hampshire. Finest 
people in the world : no question about it," his uncle said. 

And suddenly alert, scenting adventure and seduction, the young man 
got the address from him immediately. 

"Yes, my boy," here Uncle Bascom fumbled through a mass of en- 
velopes, "you may call her, without indiscretion, over the telephone at 
any time. I have spoken to her frequently about you: no doubt you'll 
find much in common. Or, say!" here a flash of inspiration aroused him 
to volcanic action, "I could call her now and let you talk to her." And 
he plunged violently toward the telephone. 

"No, no, no, no, no!" Eugene sprang after him and checked him. For 
he wanted to make his own appointment luxuriously in private, sealed 
darkly in a telephone booth, craftily to feel his way, speculating on the 
curve of the unseen hip by the sound of the voice; probing, with the 
most delicate innuendo, the depth and richness of the promise. He 
loathed all family intercession and interference: they placed, he felt, at 


the outset, a crushing restraint upon the adventure from which it could 
never recover. 

"I had rather call her myself," he added, "when I have more time. I 
don't know when I could see her now : it might be awkward calling at 
just this time." 

Later, while Uncle Bascom was poking furiously at the meagre coals 
of the tiny furnace in the cellar, setting up a clangorous and smoky din 
all through the house, Aunt Louise would bear down madly upon the 
boy, whispering: 

"Did you hear him! Did you hear him! Still mad about the women at 
his age! Can't keep his hands off them! The lechewous old fool!" and 
she cackled bitterly. Then, with a fierce change: "He's mad about them, 
Eugene. He's had one after anothah for the last twenty yeahs! He has 
spent jaw-chuns on them! Have you seen that gul in his office yet ? The 

He had, and believed he had rarely seen a more solidly dull unat- 
tractive female than this pallid coarse-featured girl. But he only said: 

"He has spent thousands on her, Gene! Thousands! The old fool! 
And all they do is laugh at him behind his back. Why even at home 
heah," her eyes darting madly about the place, "he can hardly keep his 
hands off me at times! I have to lock myself in my woom to secure 
pwotection" and her bright old eyes muttered crazily about in her head. 

He thought these outbursts the result of frantic and extravagant jeal- 
ousy: fruit of some passionate and submerged affection that his aunt 
still bore for her husband. This, perhaps, was true, but later he was to 
find there was a surprising modicum of fact in what she had said. 

During the wintry afternoon, he would sit and smoke one of his 
uncle's corn-cob pipes, filling it with the coarse cheap powerful tobacco 
that lay, loosely spread, upon a bread-board in the kitchen. 

Meanwhile, his aunt, on these usual Sundays when she must remain 
at home, played entire operas from Wagner on her small victrola. 

Most of the records had been given her by her two daughters, and 
during the week the voices of the music afforded her the only com- 
panionship she had. The boy listened attentively to all she said about 
music, because he knew little about it, and had got from poetry the kind 
of joy that music seemed to give to others. Shifting the records quickly, 
his aunt would point out the melodramatic effervescence of the ItalianS| 


the metallic precision, the orderly profusion, the thrill, the vibration, 
the emptiness of French composition. She liked the Germans and the 
Russians. She liked what she called the "barbaric splendor" of Rimsky, 
but was too late, of course, either to have heard or to care much for the 
modern composers. 

She would play Wagner over and over again, lost in the enchanted 
forests of the music, her spirit wandering drunkenly down vast murky 
aisles of sound, through which the great hoarse throats of horns were 
baying faintly. And occasionally, on Sundays, on one of her infrequent 
excursions into the world, when her daughters bought her tickets for 
concerts at Symphony Hall that great gray room lined on its sides with 
pallid plaster shells of Greece she would sit perched high, a sparrow 
held by the hypnotic serpent's eye of music following each motif, hear- 
ing minutely each subtle entry of the mellow flutes, the horns, the 
spinal ecstasy of violins until her lonely and desolate life was spun out 
of her into aerial fabrics of bright sound. 

During this time, Uncle Bascom, who also knew nothing about music, 
and cared so little for it that he treated his wife's passion for it with 
contempt, would bury himself in the Sunday papers, or thumb delib- 
erately through the pages of an ancient edition of the Encyclopedia 
Britannica in search of arbitrament for some contested point. 

"Ah! Here we are, just as I thought," he would declare suddenly, 
with triumphant satisfaction. " 'Upon the fifth, however, in spite of the 
heavy rains which had made of the roads quaking bogs, Jackson ap- 
peared suddenly from the South, at the head of an army of 33,000 men.' " 

Then they would wrangle furiously over the hour, the moment, the 
place of dead event: each rushing from the room fiercely to produce the 
document which would support his own contention. 

"Your aunt, my boy, is not the woman she once was," Bascom would 
say regretfully during her absence. "No question about that! At one 
time she was a very remarkable woman! Yes, sir, a woman of very 
considerable intelligence considerable, that is, for a woman," he said, 
with a slight sneer. 

And she, whispering, when he had gone: "You have noticed, of course, 


"His mind's going," she muttered. "What a head he had fifteen years 
ago! But nowl Senile decay G. Stanley Hall forgets everything" 
she whispered hoarsely, as she heard his returning footfalls. 


Or, as the winter light darkened grayly, slashed on the western sky 
by fierce cold red, his uncle passed sheaf after sheaf of his verse to him, 
sniggering nosily, and prodding the boy with his great fingers, while 
his aunt cleared the table, or listened to the music. The great majority 
of these verses, labored and pedantic as they were, were variations of 
the motif of agnosticism, the horn on which his ministry in the Church 
had fatally gored itself and still a brand that smouldered in his brain 
not now so much from an all-mastering conviction, as from some desire 
to justify himself. These verses, which he asserted were modelled on 
those of his great hero, Matthew Arnold, were all remarkably like this 


"Is there a land beyond the stars 
Where we may find eternal day, 
Life after death, peace after wars? 
Is there? I cannot say. 
Shall we find there a happier life, 
All joy that here we never know, 
Love in all things, an end of strife? 
Perhaps: it may be so." 

And so on. 

And sniggering down his nose, Bascom would prod the young man 
stiffly with his great fingers, saying, as he slyly thrust another verse into 
his hand: 

"Something in a lighter vein, my boy. Just a little foolishness, you 
know. (Phuh! Phuh! Phuh! Phuh! Phuh!)" Which was: 

"Mary had a little calf, 
It followed up her leg, 
And everywhere that Mary went, 
The boys were sure to beg." 

And so on. 

Uncle Bascom had hundreds of them: Poems Chiefly Religious, he 
sent occasionally to the morning papers. They were sometimes printed 
in the Editor's Correspondence or The Open Forum. But Poems 
Chiefly Profane he kept apparently for his own regalement. 

Then, as it darkened, toward five o'clock, the boy would depart 
leaving them at times bitterly involved in a political wrangle, with the 
strewn Sunday members of The Boston Herald and The Boston Post 


around them, she parroting intensely the newspaper jargon, assaulting 
Borah and "the Senate iwweconcilables," he angrily defending Senator 
Lodge as a scholar and a gentleman, with whom he had not always been 
in agreement, but from whom he had once received a most courteous 
letter a fact which seemed to distinguish him in Bascom's mind as the 
paragon of statesmanship. 

And as Eugene left, he would note, with a swift inchoate pang, the 
sudden mad loneliness in Aunt Louise's eyes, doomed for another week 
to her grim imprisonment. But he did not know that her distended and 
exhausted heart hissed audibly each time she ascended from futile labor 
on the cold furnace, stoked with cheap slag and coke, and that her thin 
blood was fed by gristly butcher's leavings, in answer to the doctor's 
call for meat. 

And his aunt would go with Eugene to the frost-glazed door, open it, 
and stand huddled meagrely and hugging herself together beneath the 
savage desolation of the Northern cold; talking to him for a moment and 
calling brightly after him as he went down the icy path: 

"Come again, boy! Always glad to see you!" 

And in the dull cold c unday light he strode away, his spirit braced by 
the biting air, the Nc icrn cold, the ragged bloody sky, which was 
somehow prophetic to m of glorious fulfilment, and at the same time 
depressed by the gray enormous weight of Sunday tedium and dreariness 
all around him. 

And yet, he never lost heart that out of this dullness he would draw 
some rich adventure. He strode away with quickening pulse, hoping to 
see it issue from every warmly lighted house, to find it in the street cars, 
the subway or at a restaurant. Then he would go back into the city and dine 
at one of the restaurants where the pretty waitresses served him. Later 
he would go out on the sparsely peopled Sunday streets, turning finally, 
as a last resort, into Washington Street, where the moving-picture places 
and cheap vaudeville houses were filled with their Sunday Irish custom. 

Sometimes he went in, but as one weary act succeeded the other, and 
the empty brutal laughter of the people echoed in his ears, seeming to 
him forced and dishonest, as if people laughed at the ghosts of mirth, the 
rotten husks of stale wit, the sordidness, hopelessness, and sterility of 
their lives oppressed him hideously. On the stage he would see the 
comedian again display his red necktie with a leer, and hear the people 
laugh about it; he would hear again that some one was a big piece of 
cheese, and listen to them roar; he would observe again the pert and 


cheap young comedian with nothing to offer waste time portentously, 
talk in a low voice with the orchestra leader; and the only thing he liked 
would be the strength and balance of the acrobats. 

Finally, drowned in a sea-depth of gray horror, and with the weary 
brutal laughter of the audience ringing in his ears, he would rush out 
on the street again, filled with its hideous Sunday dullness and the sterile 
wink of the chop-suey signs, and take the train to Cambridge. 

And there, as the night grew late, his spirit would surge up in him : 
sunken in books at midnight, with the soft numb prescience of brooding 
snow upon the air, the feeling of exultancy, joy, and invincible strength 
would come back; and he was sure that the door would open for 
him, the magic word be spoken, and that he would make all of the 
glory, power, and beauty of the earth his own. 


ONE day the boy telephoned the girl of whom his Uncle Bascom had 
spoken. She was coy and cautious, but sounded hopeful: he liked her 
voice. When, after some subtle circumlocutions, he asked her for an 
early meeting, she countered swiftly by asking him to meet her the fol- 
lowing evening at the North Station: she was coming in to town to 
perform at a dinner. She played the violin. He understood very well 
that she was really anxious to see him before admitting him to the secure 
license of a suburban parlor; so, he bathed himself, threw powder under 
his arm-pits, and put on a new shirt, which he bought for the occasion. 

It was November: rain fell coldly and drearily. He buttoned himself 
in his long raincoat and went to meet her. She had promised to wear a 
red carnation; the suggestion was her own, and tickled him hugely. As 
the pink-faced suburbanites poured, in an icy stream, into the hot wait- 
ing-room, he looked for her. Presently he saw her : she came toward him 
immediately, since his height was unmistakable. They talked excitedly 
flustered, but gradually getting some preliminary sense of each other. 

She was a rather tall, slender girl, dressed in garments that seemed to 
have been left over, in good condition, from the early part of the century. 
She wore a flat but somehow towering hat: it seemed to perch upon her 
head, as do those worn by the Queen of England. She was covered with 
a long blue coat, which flared and bustled at the hips, and had screws 
and curls of black corded ornament; she looked respectable and anti- 
quated, but her costume, and a naive stupidity in her manner, gave her 


a quaintness that he liked. He took her to the subway, having arranged 
a meeting at her home for. the following night. 

The girl, whose name was Genevieve Simpson, lived with her mothei 
and her brother, a heavy young lout of nineteen years, in a two-family 
house at Melrose. The mother, a small, full, dumpling-faced woman, 
whose ordinary expression in repose, in common with that of so many 
women of the middle class in America who have desired one life and 
followed another and found perhaps that its few indispensable benefits, 
as security, gregariousness, decorum, have not been as all-sufficient as 
they had hoped, was one of sullen, white, paunch-eyed discontent. 

It was this inner petulance, the small carping disparagement of every 
one and everything that entered the mean light of her world, that made 
absurdly palpable the burlesque mechanism of social heartiness. Look- 
ing at her while she laughed with shrill falsity at all the wrong places, 
he would rock with huge guffaws, to which she would answer with 
eager renewal, believing that both were united in their laughter over 
something of which she was, it is true, a little vague. 

It was, she felt, her business to make commercially attractive to every 
young man the beauty and comfort of the life she had made for her fam- 
ily, and although the secret niggling discontent of their lives was plainly 
described on both her own and her daughter's face, steeped behind their 
transparent masks in all the small poisons of irritability and bitterness, 
they united in their pretty tableau before the world a tableau, he felt, 
something like those final exhibitions of grace and strength with which 
acrobats finish the act, the strained smile of ease and comfort, as if one 
could go on hanging by his toes forever, the grieving limbs, the whole 
wrought torture which will collapse in exhausted relief the second the 
curtain hides it. 

"We want you to feel absolutely at home here," she said brightly* 
"Make this your headquarters. You will find us simple folk here, with 
out any frills," she continued, with a glance around the living-room/ 
letting her eye rest with brief satisfaction upon the striped tiles of thfl 
hearth, the flowered vases of the mantel, the naked doll, tied with a pinfc 
sash, on the piano, and the pictures of "The Horse Fair," the lovers flying 
before the storm, Maxfield Parrish's "Dawn," and Leonardo da Vinci'a 
"Last Supper," which broke the spaces of the wall, "but if you like a quiet 
family life, a welcome is always waiting for you here. Oh, yes every 
one is for each other here: we keep no secrets from each other in our 
little family." 


Eugene thought that this was monstrous if it was true; a swift look at 
Genevieve and Mama convinced him, however, that not everything was 
being told. A mad exultancy arose in him: the old desire returned again 
to throw a bomb into the camp, in order to watch its effect; to express 
murderous opinions in a gentle Christian voice, further entrenched by 
an engaging matter-of-factness, as if he were but expressing the common- 
place thought of all sensible people; bawdily, lewdly, shockingly with 
a fine assumption of boyish earnestness, sincerity, and naivete. So, in a 
voice heavily coated with burlesque feeling, he said: "Thank you, thank 
you, Mrs. Simpson. You have no idea what it means to me to be able to 
come to a place like this." 

"I know," said Genevieve with fine sympathy, "when you're a thou- 
sand miles from home " 

. "A thousand!" he cried, with a bitter laugh, "a thousand! Say rather a 
million." And he waited, almost squealing in his throat, until they 
should bite. 

"But but your home is in the South, isn't it?" Mrs, Simpson in- 
quired doubtfully. 

"Home! Home!" cried he, with raucous laugh. "I have no home!" 

"Oh, you poor boy!" said Genevieve. 

"But your parents are they both dead?" 

"No!" he answered, with a sad smile. "They are both living." 

There was a pregnant silence. 

"They do not live together," he added after a moment, feeling he 
could not rely on their deductive powers. 

"O-o-oh," said Mrs. Simpson significantly, running the vowel up and 
down the vocal scale. "O-o-oh!" 

"Nasty weather, isn't it?" he remarked, deliberately drawing a loose 
cigarette from his pocket. "I wish it would snow: I like your cold North- 
ern winters as only a Southerner can like them; I like the world at night 
when it is muffled, enclosed with snow; I like a warm secluded house, 
sheltered under heavy fir trees, with the curtains drawn across a mellow 
light, and books, and a beautiful woman within. These are some of the 
things I like." 

"Gee!" said the boy, his heavy blond head leaned forward intently. 
"What was the trouble?" 

"Jimmy! Hush!" cried Genevieve, and yet they all looked toward 
Eugene with eager intensity. 

"The trouble?" said he, vacantly. "What trouble?" 


"Between your father and mother?" 
"Oh," he said carelessly, "he beat her." 
"Aw-w! He hit her with his fist?" 

"Oh, no. He generally used a walnut walking stick. It got too much 
for her finally. My mother, even then, was not a young woman she 
was almost fifty, and she could not stand the gaff so well as she could in 
her young days. I'll never forget that last night," he said, gazing 
thoughtfully into the coals with a smile. "I was only seven, but I re- 
member it all very well. Papa had been brought home drunk by the 

"The mayor?" 

"Oh, yes," said Eugene casually. "They were great friends. The 
mayor often brought him home when he was drunk. But he was very 
violent that time. After the mayor had gone, he stamped around the 
house smashing everything he could get his hands on, cursing and 
blaspheming at the top of his voice. My mother stayed in the kitchen 
and paid no attention to him when he entered. This, of course, in- 
furiated him. He made for her with the poker. She saw that at last 
she was up against it; but she had realized that such a moment was in- 
evitable. She was not unprepared. So she reached in the flour bin and 
got her revolver " 

"Did she have a revolver!" 

"Oh, yes," he said nonchalantly, "my Uncle Will had given it to her 
as a Christmas present. Knowing my father as he did, he told her it 
might come in handy sometime. Mama was forced to shoot at him three 
times before he came to his senses." 

There was a silence. 

"Gee!" said the boy, finally. "Did she hit him?" 

"Only once," Eugene replied, tossing his cigarette into the fire. "A 
flesh wound in the leg. A trifle. He was up and about in less than a 
week. But, of course, Mama had left him by that time." 

"Well!" said Mrs. Simpson, after a yet longer silence, "I've never had 
to put up with anything like that" 

"No, thank heaven!" said Genevieve fervently. Then, curiously: "Is 
is your mother Mr. Pentland's sister?" 


"And the uncle who gave her the revolver Mr. Pentland's brother?** 

"Oh, yes," Eugene answered readily. "It's all the same family." He 
grinned in his entrails, thinking of Uncle Bascom. 


"Mr. Pentland seems a very educated sort of man," said Mrs. Simp- 
son, having nothing else to say. 

"Yes. We went to see him when we were hunting for a house," Gen- 
evieve added. "He was very nice to us. He told us he had once been 
in the ministry." 

"Yes," said Eugene. "He was a Man of God for more than twenty 
years one of the most eloquent, passionate, and gifted soul-savers that 
ever struck fear into the hearts of the innumerable sinners of the Amer- 
ican Nation. In fact, I know of no one with whom to compare him, un- 
less I turn back three centuries to Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan divine, 
who evoked, in a quiet voice like the monotonous dripping of water, a 
picture of hell-fire so near that the skins of the more imaginative fanatics 
on the front rows visibly blistered. However, Edwards spoke for two 
and a half hours: Uncle Bascom, with his mad and beautiful tongue, 
has been known to drive people insane with terror in twenty-seven 
minutes by the clock. There are still people in the asylums that he put 
there," he said piously. "I hope," he added quickly, "you didn't ask him 
why he had left the church." 

"Oh, no!" said Genevieve. "We never did that." 

"Why did he?" asked Mrs. Simpson bluntly, who felt that now she 
had only to ask and it would be given. She was not disappointed. 

"It was the centuries-old conflict between organized authority and the 
individual," said Eugene. "No doubt you have felt it in your own lives. 
Uncle Bascom was a poet, a philosopher, a mystic he had the soul of 
an artist which must express divine love and ideal beauty in corporeal 
form. Such a man as this is not going to be shackled by the petty tyran- 
nies of ecclesiastical convention. An artist must love, and be loved. He 
must be swept by the Flow of Things, he must be a constantly expanding 
atom in the rhythmic surges of the Life Force. Who knew this better 
than Uncle Bascom when he first met the choir contralto?" 

"Contralto!" gasped Genevieve. 

"Perhaps she was a soprano," said Eugene. "It skills not. Suffice it to 
say they lived, they loved, they had their little hour of happiness. Of 
course, when the child came " 

"The child!" screamed Mrs. Simpson. 

"A bouncing boy. He weighed thirteen pounds at birth and is at the 
present a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy." 

"What became of her ?" said Genevieve. 

"Of whom?" 


"Thethe contralto." 

"She died she died in childbirth." 

But but Mr. Pentland?" inquired Mrs. Simpson in an uncertain 
voice. "Didn't he marry her?" 

"How could he?" Eugene answered with calm logic. "He was mar- 
ried to some one else." 

And casting his head back suddenly he sang: "You know I'm in love 
with some-boddy else, so why can't you leave me alone?" 

"Well, I never!" Mrs. Simpson stared dumbly into the fire. 

"Well, hardly ever," Eugene became allusively Gilbertian. "She 
hardly ever has a Big, Big B." And he sang throatily : "Oh, yes! Oh, yes, 
in-deed!" relapsing immediately into a profound and moody abstraction, 
but noting with delight that Genevieve and her mother were looking at 
him furtively, with frightened and bewildered glances. 

"Say!" The boy, whose ponderous jowl had been sunken on his fist for 
ten minutes, now at length distilled a question. "What ever became 
of your father? Is he still living?" 

"No!" said Eugene, after a brief pause, returning suddenly to fact. 
"No! He's still dying." 

And he fixed upon them suddenly the battery of his fierce eyes, lit 
with horror : 

"He has a cancer." After a moment, he concluded: "My father is a 
very great man." 

They looked at him in stricken bewilderment. 

"Gee!" said the boy, after another silence. "That guy's worse than our 
old man!" 

"Jimmy! Jimmy!" whispered Genevieve scathingly. 

There was a very long, for the Simpson family, a very painful, silence. 

"Aha! Aha!" Eugene's head was full of ahas. 

"I suppose you have thought it strange," Mrs. Simpson began with a 
cracked laugh, which she strove to make careless, "that you have never 
seen Mr. Simpson about when you called?" 

"Yes," he answered with a ready dishonesty, for he had never thought 
of it at all. But he reflected at the same moment that this was precisely 
the sort of thing people were always thinking of: suddenly before the 
embattled front of that little family, its powers aligned for the defense of 
reputation, he felt lonely, shut out. He saw himself looking in at them 
through a window : all communication with life grouped and protected 
seemed forever shut off. 


"Mother decided some months ago that she could no longer live with 
Father," said Genevieve, with sad dignity. 

"Sure," volunteered Jimmy, "he's livin' with another woman!" 

"Jimmy!" said Genevieve hoarsely. 

Eugene had a momentary flash of humorous sympathy with the de- 
parted Simpson; then he looked at her white bickering face and felt 
sorry for her. She carried her own punishment with her. 


SHALL a man be dead within your heart before his rotten flesh be 
wholly dead within the ground, and before the producing fats and 
syrup cease to give life to his growing hair? Shall a man so soon be 
done with that which still provides a nest for working maggotry or 
shall a brother leave a brother's memory before the worms have left his 
tissue? This is a pregnant subject: there should be laws passed, and a 
discipline, which train a man to greater constancy. And suddenly, out 
of this dream of time in which he lived, he would awaken, and instantly, 
like a man freed from the spell of an enchantment which has held him 
captive for many years in some strange land, he would remember 
home with an intolerable sense of pain and loss, the lost world of his 
childhood, and feel the strange and bitter miracle of life and have no 
words for what he wished to say. 

That lost world would come back to him at many times, and often 
for no cause that he could trace or fathom a voice half-heard, a word 
far-spoken, a leaf, a light that came and passed and came again. But al- 
ways when that lost world would come back, it came at once, like a 
sword thrust through the entrails, in all its panoply of past time, living,, 
whole, and magic as it had always been. 

And always when it came to him, and at whatever time, and for wltat- 
ever reason, he could hear his father's great voice sounding in the bouse, 
again and see his gaunt devouring stride as he had come muttering; 
round the corner at the hour of noon long years before. 

And then he would hear again the voice of his dead brother, and! 
remember with a sense of black horror, dream-like disbelief, chat Bern 
was dead, and yet could not believe that Ben had ever died, or that he had 4 
had a brother, lost a friend. Ben would come back to him in these mo- 
ments with a blazing and intolerable reality, until he heard his quiet liv- 
ing voice again, saw his fierce scowling eyes of bitter grayj his scornful, 
proud and lively face, and always when Ben came back to him it was like 


this : he saw his brother in a single image, in some brief forgotten moment 
of the past, remembered him by a word, a gesture, a forgotten act; and 
certainly all that could ever be known of Ben's life was collected in that 
blazing image of lost time and the forgotten moment. And suddenly 
he would be there in a strange land, staring upward from his bed in 
darkness, hearing his brother's voice again, and living in the far and 
bitter miracle of time. 

And always now, when Ben came back to him, he came within the 
frame and limits of a single image, one of those instant blazing images 
which from this time would haunt his memory and which more and 
more, as a kind of distillation a reward for all the savage struggles of 
his Faustian soul with the protean and brain-maddening forms of life 
were to collect and concentrate the whole material of experience and 
memory, in which the process of ten thousand days and nights could in 
an instant be resumed. And the image in which Ben now always came to 
him was this: he saw his brother standing in a window, and an old red 
light of fading day, and all the strange and tragic legend of his destiny 
was on his brow, and all that any man could ever see or know or under- 
stand of his dead brother's life was there: 

Bitter and beautiful, scorn no more. Ben stands there in the window, 
for a moment idle, his strong, lean fingers resting lightly on his bony 
hips, his gray eyes scowling fiercely, bitterly and contemptuously over 
the laughing and exuberant faces of the crowd. For a moment more he 
scowls fixedly at them with an expression of almost savage contempt. 
Then scornfully he turns away from them. The bitter, lean and pointed 
face, the shapely, flashing, close-cropped head jerks upward, backward, 
he laughs briefly and with pitying contempt as he speaks to that un- 
known and invisible auditor who all his life has been the eternal con- 
fidant and witness of his scorn : 

"Oh my God!" he says, jerking his scornful head out towards the 
crowd again. "Listen to this, will you?" 

They look at him with laughing and exuberant faces, unwounded by 
his scorn. They look at him with a kind of secret and unspoken ten- 
derness which the strange and bitter savor of his life awakes in people 
always. They look at him with faith, with pride, with the joy and 
confidence and affection which his presence stirs in every one. And as 
if he were the very author of their fondest hopes, as if he were the fiat, 
not the helpless agent, of the thing they long to see accomplished, they 
yell to him in their unreasoning exuberance: "All right, Ben! Give us a 


Kit now! A single's all we need, boy! Bring him in!" Or others, crying 
with the same exuberance of faith: "Strike him out, Ben! Make him 


But now the crowd, sensing the electric thrill and menace of a decisive 
conflict, has grown still, is waiting with caught breath and pounding 
hearts, their eyes fixed eagerly on Ben. Somewhere, a thousand miles to 
the North, somewhere through the reddened, slanting and fast-fading 
light of that October day, somewhere across the illimitable fields and 
folds and woods and hills and hollows of America, across the huge 
brown earth, the mown fields, the vast wild space, the lavish, rude and 
unfenced distances, the familiar, homely, barren, harsh, strangely haunt- 
ing scenery of the nation; somewhere through the crisp, ripe air, the 
misty, golden pollenated light of all her prodigal and careless harvest; 
somewhere far away at the heart of the great sky-soaring, smoke-gold, 
and enchanted city of the North, and of their vision the lean right arm 
of the great pitcher Mathewson is flashing like a whip. A greyhound of 
a man named Speaker, quick as a deer to run, sharp as a hawk to see, 
swift as a cat to strike, stands facing him. And the huge terrific stands, 
packed to the eaves incredibly with mounting tiers of small white faces, 
now all breathless, silent, and intent, all focused on two men as are the 
thoughts, the hearts, the visions of these people everywhere in little 
towns, soar back, are flung to the farthest edges of the field in a vision of 
power, of distance, space and lives unnumbered, fused into a single unity 
that is so terrific that it bursts the measures of our comprehension and 
has a dream-like strangeness of reality even when we see it. 

The scene is instant, whole and wonderful. In its beauty and design 
that vision of the soaring stands, the pattern of forty thousand em- 
petalled faces, the velvet and unalterable geometry of the playing field, 
and the small lean figures of the players, set there, lonely, tense and 
waiting in their places, bright, desperate solitary atoms encircled by that 
huge wall of nameless faces, is incredible. And more than anything, 
it is the light, the miracle of light and shade and color the crisp, blue 
light that swiftly slants out from the soaring stands and, deepening to 
violet, begins to march across the velvet field and towards the pitcher's 
box, that gives the thing its single and incomparable beauty. 

The batter stands swinging his bat and grimly waiting at the plate, 
crouched, tense, the catcher, crouched, the umpire, bent, hands clasped 
behind his back, and peering forward. All of them are set now in the 
cold blue of that slanting shadow, except the pitcher who stands out 


there all alone, calm, desperate, and forsaken in his isolation, with the 
gold-red swiftly fading light upon him, his figure legible with all the 
resolution, despair and lonely dignity which that slanting, somehow 
fatal light can give him. Deep lilac light is eating swiftly in from every 
corner of the field now, and far off there is a vision of the misty, golden 
and October towers of the terrific city. The scene is unforgettable in the 
beauty, intoxication and heroic feeling of its incredible design, and yet, 
as overwhelming as the spectacle may be for him who sees it, it is doubt- 
ful if the eye-witness has ever felt its mystery, beauty, and strange love' 
liness as did that unseen and unseeing audience in a little town. 

But now the crowd, sensing the menaccful approach of a decisive 
moment, has grown quiet and tense and breathless, as it stands there in 
the street. In the window? Ben sets the earphones firmly with his hands, 
his head goes down, the scowl between his gray eyes deepens to a look 
of listening intensity. He begins to speak sharply to a young man stand- 
ing at a table on the floor behind him. He snaps his fingers nervously, a 
card-board placard is handed to him, he looks quickly at it, and then 
thrusts it back, crying irritably : 

"No, no, no! Strike one, I said! Damn it, Mac, you're about as much 
help to me as a wooden Indian!" 

The young man on the floor thrusts another placard in his hand. Ben 
takes it quickly, swiftly takes out a placard from the complicated frame 
of wires and rows and columns in the window (for it is before the day 
of the electric Scoreboard, and this clumsy and complicated system where- 1 
by every strike, ball, substitution, or base hit every possible movement 
and event that can occur upon the field must be indicated in this way 
by placards printed with the exact information, is the only one they 
know) and thrusts a new placard on the line in place of the one that he 
has just removed. A cheer, sharp, lusty, and immediate, goes up from 
the crowd. Ben speaks sharply and irritably to the dark and sullen- 
featured youth whose name is Foxey and Foxey runs outside quickly 
with another placard inscribed with the name of a new player who is 
coming in. Swiftly, Foxey takes out of its groove the name of the de- 
parting player, shoves the new one into place, and this time the rival 
partisans in the crowd cheer for the pinch hitter. 

In the street now there is the excited buzz and hum of controversy, 
The people, who, with a strange and somehow moving loyalty, ar* 
divided into two groups supporting the merits of two teams which they 
have never seen, are eagerly debating, denying, making positive asser- 


tions of what is likely to happen, which are obviously extravagant and 
absurd in a contest where nothing can be predicted, and so much de- 
pends on fortune, chance, and the opportunity of the moment. 

In the very forefront of the crowd, a little to the right as Ben stands 
facing them, a well-dressed man in the late fifties can be seen excitedly 
discussing the prospect of the game with several of his companions. 
His name is Fagg Sluder, a citizen well known to every one in town. 
He is a man who made a fortune as a contractor and retired from 
active business several years ago, investing part of his wealth in two 
or three large office buildings, and who now lives on the income he 
derives from them. 

He is a nervous energetic figure of a man, of middle height, with 
graying hair, a short, cropped mustache, and the dry, spotted, slightly 
concave features which characterize many Americans of his age. A 
man who, until recent years, has known nothing but hard work since 
his childhood, he has now developed, in his years of leisure, an enthu- 
siastic devotion to the game, that amounts to an obsession. 

He has not only given to the town the baseball park which bears his 
name, he is also president of the local Club, and uncomplainingly makes 
good its annual deficit. During the playing season his whole time ik 
spent in breathing, thinking, talking baseball all day long: if he is not 
at the game, bent forward in his seat behind the home plate in an attitude 
of ravenous absorption, occasionally shouting advice and encouragement 
to the players in his rapid, stammering, rather high-pitched voice that 
has a curiously incisive penetration and carrying power, then he is up on 
the Square before the fire department going over every detail of the 
game with his cronies and asking eager, rapid-fire questions of the young 
red-necked players he employs, and towards whom he displays the 
worshipful admiration of a school-boy. 

Now this man who, despite his doctor's orders, smokes twenty or 
thirty strong black cigars a day, and in fact is never to be seen without 
a cigar in his fingers or in his mouth may be heard all over the crowd 
speaking eagerly in his rapid, stammering voice to a man with a quiet 
and pleasant manner who stands behind him. This is the assistant chief 
of the fire department and his name is Bickett: 

"Jim," Mr. Sluder is saying in his eager and excited way, "I I I I 
tell you what I think! If if if Speaker comes up there again with men 
on bases I I I just believe Matty will strike him out I swear I do. 
What do you think?" he demands eagerly and abruptly. 


Mr. Bickett, first pausing to draw slowly and languorously on a 
cigarette before casting it into the gutter, makes some easy, quiet and 
non-committal answer which satisfies Mr. Sluder completely, since he 
is paying no attention to him anyway. Immediately, he claps the chewed 
cigar which he is holding in his stubby fingers into his mouth, and nod- 
ding his head briskly and vigorously, with an air of great decision, he 
stammers out again: 

"Well I I I just believe that's what he's going to do: I I I don't 
think he's afraid of that fellow at all! I I I think he knows he can 
strike him out any time he feels like it." 

The boy knows every one in the crowd as he looks around him. Here 
are the other boys of his own age, and older his fellow route-boys in the 
morning's work, his school companions, delivery boys employed by drug- 
gists, merchants, clothiers, the sons of the more wealthy and prominent 
people of the town. Here are the boys from the eastern part of town from 
which he comes and in which his father's house is built the older, 
homelier, and for some reason more joyful and confident part of town 
to him though why he does not know, he cannot say. Perhaps it is 
because the hills along the eastern borders of the town are near and 
close and warm, and almost to be touched. But in the western part of 
town, the great vistas of the soaring ranges, the distant summits of the 
Smokies fade far away into the west, into the huge loneliness, the haunt 1 
ing desolation of the unknown distance, the red, lonely light of the 
powerful retreating sun. 

But now the old red light is slanting swiftly, the crowd is waiting 
tense and silent, already with a touch of sorrow, resignation, and the 
winter in their hearts, for summer's over, the game is ending, and 
October has come again, has come again. In the window, where the red 
slant of the sun already falls, Ben is moving quickly, slipping new 
placards into place, taking old ones out, scowling, snapping his hard, 
white fingers in command, speaking curtly, sharply, irritably to the busy 
figures, moving at his bidding on the floor. The game the last game of 
the series is sharp, close, bitterly contested. No one can say as yet which 
way the issue goes, which side will win, when it will end but that 
fatality of red slanting light, the premonitory menace of the frost, the 
fatal certitude of victory and defeat, with all the sorrow and regret that 
both can bring to men, are in their hearts. 

From time to time, a wild and sudden cheer breaks sharply from the 
waiting crowd, as something happens to increase their hope of victory. 


but for the most part they are tense and silent now, all waiting for the 
instant crisis, the quick end. 

Behind Ben, seated in a swivel chair, but turned out facing toward 
the crowd, the boy can see the gouty bulk of Mr. Flood, the owner of 
the paper. He is bent forward heavily in his seat, his thick apoplectic 
fingers braced upon his knees, his mouth ajar, his coarse, jowled, ve- 
nously empurpled face and bulging yellow eyes turned out upon the 
crowd, in their constant expression of slow stupefaction. From time 
to time, when the crowd cheers loudly, the expression of brutal surprise 
upon Mr. Flood's coarse face will deepen perceptibly and comically, 
and in a moment he will say stupidly, in his hoarse and phlegmy tones : 

"Who done that ? . . . What are they yelling for ? . . . Which side's 
ahead now? . . . What happened that time, Ben?" 

To which Ben usually makes no reply whatever, but the savage 
scowl between his gray eyes deepens with exasperation, and finally, 
cursing bitterly, he says: 

"Damn it, Flood! What do you think I am the whole damned 
newspaper ? Fpr heaven's sake, man, do you think all I've got to do is 
answer damn-fool questions! If you want to know what's happening, 
go outside where the rest of them are!" 

"Well, Ben, I just wanted to know how " Mr. Flood begins hoarsely, 
heavily, and stupidly. 

"Oh, for God's sake! Listen to this, won't you?" says Ben, laughing 
scornfully and contemptuously as he addresses the invisible auditor of 
his scorn, and jerking his head sideways toward the bloated figure of his 
employer as he does so, "Here!" he says, in a disgusted manner. "For 
God's sake, some one go and tell him what the score is, and put him 
out of his misery!" And scowling savagely, he speaks sharply into the 
mouthpiece of the phone and puts another placard on the line. 

And suddenly, even as the busy figures swarm and move there in the 
window before the waiting crowd, the bitter thrilling game is over! In 
waning light, in faint shadows, far, far away in a great city of the North, 
the 40,000 small empetalled faces bend forward, breathless, waiting 
single and strange and beautiful as all life, all living, and man's destiny. 
There's a man on base, the last flash of the great right arm, the crack of 
the bat, the streaking white of a clean-hit ball, the wild, sudden, solid 
roar, a pair of flashing legs have crossed the rubber, and the game is 

And instantly, there at the city's heart, in the great stadium, and all 


across America, in ten thousand streets, ten thousand little towns, the 
crowd is breaking, flowing, lost forever! That single, siient, most in- 
tolerable loveliness is gone forever. With all its tragic, proud and waiting 
unity, it belongs now to the huge, the done, the indestructible fabric of 
the past, has moved at last out of that inscrutable maw of chance we call 
the future into the strange finality of dark time. 

Now it is done, the crowd is broken, lost, exploded, and 10,000,000 men 
are moving singly down 10,000 streets toward what? Some by the 
light of Hesperus which, men say, can bring all things that live on earth 
to their own home again flock to the fold, the father to his child, the 
lover to the love he has forsaken and the proud of heart, the lost, the 
lonely of the earth, the exile and the wanderer to what? To pace 
again the barren avenues of night, to pass before the bulbous light of 
lifeless streets with half-averted faces, to pass the thousand doors, to feel 
again the ancient hopelessness of hope, the knowledge of despair, the 
faith of desolation. 

And for a moment, when the crowd has gone, Ben stands thert 
silent, lost, a look of bitter weariness, disgust, and agony upon his gray 
gaunt face, his lonely brow, his fierce and scornful eyes. And as he 
stands there that red light of waning day has touched the flashing head, 
the gaunt, starved face, has touched the whole image of his fiercely 
wounded, lost and scornful spirit with the prophecy of its strange 
fatality. And in that instant as the boy looks at his brother, a knife is 
driven through his entrails suddenly, for with an instant final certitude, 
past reason, proof, or any visual evidence, he sees the end and answer of 
his brother's life. Already death rests there on his proud head like a 
coronal. The boy knows in that one instant Ben will die. 


He visited Genevieve frequently over a period of several months. 
As his acquaintance with the family deepened, the sharpness of his ap^ 
petite for seduction dwindled, and was supplanted by an ecstatic and in- 
satiable glee. He felt that he had never in his life been so enormously 
and constantly amused: he would think exultantly for days of an ap- 
proaching visit, weaving new and more preposterous fables for their 
consumption, bursting into violent laughter on the streets as he thought 
of past scenes, the implication of a tone, a gesture, the transparent artifice 
of mother and daughter, the incredible exaggeration of everything. 


He was charmed, enchanted: his mind swarmed daily with mon- 
strous projects his heart quivered in a tight cage of nervous exultancy 
as he thought of the infinite richness of absurdity that lay stored for 
him. His ethical conscience was awakened hardly at all he thought of 
these three people as monsters posturing for his delight. His hatred of 
cruelty, the nauseating horror at the idiot brutality of youth, had not 
yet sufficiently defined itself to check his plunge. He was swept along 
\n the full tide of his adventure: he thought of nothing else. 

Through an entire winter, and into the spring, he went to see this 
little family in a Boston suburb. Then, he got tired of the game and the 
people as suddenly as he had begun, with the passionate boredom, weari- 
ness, and intolerance of which youth is capable. And now that the affair 
was ending, he was at last ashamed of the part he had played in it, and of 
the arrogant contempt with which he had regaled himself at the ex- 
pense of other people. And he knew that the Simpsons had themselves 
at length become conscious of the meaning of his conduct, and saw that, 
in some way, he had made them the butt of a joke. And when they saw 
this, the family suddenly attained a curious quiet dignity, of which he 
had not believed them capable and which later he could not forget. 

One night, as he was waiting in the parlor for the girl to come dowrt, 
her mother entered the room, and stood looking at him quietly for a 
moment. Presently she spoke: 

"You have been coming here for some time, now," she said, "and we 
were always glad to see you. My daughter liked you when she met you 
she likes you yet " the woman said slowJy, and went on with ob- 
vious difficulty and embarrassment. "Her welfare means more to me 
than anything in the world I would do anything to save her from un 
happiness or misfortune." She was silent a moment, then said bluntly, 
"I think I have a right to ask you a question : what are your intentions 
concerning her?" 

He told himself that these words were ridiculous and part of the 
whole comic and burlesque quality of the family, and yet he found now 
that he could not laugh at them. He sat looking at the fire, uncertain of 
his answer, and presently he muttered: 

"I have no intentions concerning her." 

"All right," the woman said quietly. "That is all I wanted to know* 
. . . You are a young man," she went on slowly after a pause, "and very 
clever and intelligent but there are still a great many things you do 


not understand. I know now that we looked funny to you and you 

have amused yourself at our expense. ... I don't know why you 

thought it was such a joke, but I think you will live to see the day 

when you are sorry for it. It's not good to make a joke of people who 

have liked you and tried to be your friends." 

"I know it's not," he said, and muttered: "I'm sorry for it now." 

"Still, I can't believe," the woman said, "that you are a boy who would 

wilfully bring sorrow and ruin to any one who had never done you any 

harm. . . . The only reason I am saying this is for my daughter's sake." 

"You don't need to worry about that," he said. "I'm sorry now for 

acting as I have but you know everything I've done. And I'll not come 

back again. But I'd like to see her, and tell her that I'm sorry before I 


"Yes," the woman said, "I think you ought." 

She went out and a few minutes later the girl came down, entered the 
room, and he said good-bye to her. He tried to make amends to her 
with fumbling words, but she said nothing. She stood very still as he 
talked, almost rigid, her lips pressed tightly together, her hands 
clenched, winking back the tears. 

"All right," she said finally, giving him her hand. "I'll say good-bye 
to you without hard feelings. . . . Some day . . . some day," her voice 
choked and she winked furiously "I hope you'll understand oh, 
good-bye!" she cried, and turned away abruptly. "I'm not mad at you 
any longer and I wish you luck. . . . You know so many things, don't 
you ? You're so much smarter than we are, aren't you ? . . . And I'm 
sorry for you when I think of all you've got to learn ... of what you're 
going through before you do." 

"Good-bye," he said. 

He never saw any of them again, but he could not forget them. And 
as the years went on, the memory of all their folly, falseness, and hypoc- 
risy was curiously altered and subdued and the memory that grew 
more vivid and dominant was of a little family, one of millions huddled 
below the immense and timeless skies that bend above us, lost in the 
darkness of nameless and unnumbered lives upon the lonely wilderness 
of life that is America, and banked together against these giant antag- 
onists, for comfort, warmth, and love, with a courage and integrity that 
would not die, and could not be forgotten. 



ONE afternoon early in May, Helen met McGuire upon the street. 
He had just driven in behind Wood's Pharmacy on Academy Street, 
and was preparing to go in to the prescription counter when she ap- 
proached him. He got out of his big dusty-looking roadster with a pain- 
ful grunt, slammed the door, and began to fumble slowly in the pockets 
of his baggy coat for a cigarette. He turned slowly as she spoke, grunted, 
"Hello, Helen," stuck the cigarette on his fat under-lip and lighted it, 
and then looking at her with his brutal, almost stupid, but somehow 
kindly glance, he barked coarsely : 

"What's on your mind?" 

"It's about Papa," she began in a low, hoarse and almost morbid 
tone "Now I want to know if this last attack means that the end has 
come. You've got to tell me we've got the right to know about it " 

The look of strain and hysteria on her big-boned face, her dull eyes 
fixed on him in a morbid stare, the sore on her large cleft chin, above 
all, the brooding insistence of her tone as she repeated phrases he had 
heard ten thousand times before suddenly rasped upon his frayed 
nerves, stretched them to the breaking point; he lost his air of hard 
professionalism and exploded in a flare of brutal anger: 

"You want to know what ? You've got a right to be told what ? For 
God's sake," his tone was brutal, rasping, jeering "pull yourself to- 
gether and stop acting like a child." And then, a little more quietly, but 
brusquely, he demanded: 

"All right. What do you want to know?" 

"I want to know how long he's going to last," she said with morbid 
insistence. "Now, you're a doctor," she wagged her large face at him 
with an air of challenge that infuriated him, "and you ought to tell us. 
We've got to know!" 

"Tell you! Got to know!" he shouted. "What the hell are you talking 
about? What do you expect to be told?" 

"How long Papa has to live," she said with the same morbid insistence 
as before. 

"You've asked me that a thousand times," he said harshly. "I've told 
you that I didn't know. He may live another month, he may be here a 
year from now how can we tell about these things," he said in an ex- 
asperated tone, "particularly where your father is concerned. Helen, 
three or four years ago I might have made a prediction. I did make 


them I didn't see how W. O. could go on six months longer. But he's 
fooled us all you, me, the doctors at Johns Hopkins, every one who's 
had anything to do with the case. The man is dying from malignant 
carcinoma he has been dying for years his life is hanging by a thread, 
and the thread may break at any time but when it is going to break I 
have no way of telling you." 

"Ah-hah," she said reflectively. Her eyes had taken on a dull ap- 
peased look as he talked to her, and now she had begun to pluck at her 
large cleft chin. "Then you think " she began. 

"I think nothing," he shouted. "And for God's sake stop picking at 
your chin!" 

For a moment he felt the sudden brutal anger that one sometimes 
feels toward a contrary child. He felt like taking her by the shoulders 
and shaking her. Instead, he took it out in words and scowling at her, 
said with brutal directness: 

"Look here! . . . You've got to pull yourself together. You're becom- 
ing a mental case do you hear me? You wander around like a person 
in a dream, you ask questions no one can answer, you demand answers 
no one can give you work yourself up into hysterical frenzies and 
then you collapse and soak yourself with drugs, patent medicines, corn 
licker anything that has alcohol in it for days at a time. When you 
go to bed at night you think you hear voices talking to you, some one 
coming up the steps, the telephone. And really you hear nothing: there 
is nothing there. Do you know what that is?" he demanded brutally. 
"Those are symptoms of insanity you're becoming unbalanced, if it 
keeps on they may have to send you to the crazy-house to take the 


"Ah-hah! Uh-huh!" she kept plucking at her big chin with an air 
of abstracted reflection, and with a curious look of dull appeasement in 
her eyes as if his brutal words had really given her some comfort. Then 
she suddenly came to herself, looked at him with clear eyes, and, her 
generous mouth touched at the corners with the big lewd tracery of her 
earthy humor, she sniggered hoarsely, and prodding him in his fat ribs 
with a big bony finger, she said : 

"You think I've got 'em, do you ? Well " she nodded seriousty in 
agreement, frowning a little as she spoke, but with the faint grin still 
legible around the corners of her mouth, "I've often thought the same 
thing. You may be right," she nodded seriously again. "There are 
times when I do feel off you know? queer looney crazy like 


there was a screw loose somewhere Brrr!" and with the strange lewd 
mixture of frown and grin, she made a whirling movement with her 
finger towards her head. "What do you think it is?" she, went on with 
an air of seriousness. "Now, I'd just like to know. What is it that makes 
me act like that? ... Is it woman-business?" she said with a lewd and 
comic look upon her face. "Am I getting funny like the rest of them 
now I've often thought the same that maybe I'm going through a 
change of life is that it ? Maybe " 

"Oh, change of life be damned!" he said in a disgusted tone. "Here 
you are a young woman thirty-two years old and you talk to me about a 
change of life! That has about as much sense to it as a lot of other 
things you say! The only thing you change is your mind and you do 
that every five minutes!" He was silent for a moment, breathing heav- 
ily and staring at her coarsely with his bloated and unshaven face, his 
veined and weary-looking eyes. When he spoke again his voice was 
gruff and quiet, touched with a burly, almost paternal tenderness: 

"Helen," he said, "I'm worried about you and not about your father, 
Your father is an old man now with a malignant cancer and with no 
hope of ever getting well again. He is tired of life, he wants to die 
for God's sake why do you want to prolong his suffering, to try to keep 
him here in a state of agony, when death would be a merciful release 
for him ? . . . I know there is no hope left for your father : he has been 
doomed for years, the sooner the end comes the better " 

She tried to speak but he interrupted her brusquely, saying: 

"Just a minute. There's something that I want to say to you for 
God's sake try to use it, if you can. The death of this old man seems 
strange and horrible to you because he is your father. It is as hard for you 
to think about his death as it is to think about the death of God Al- 
mighty; you think that if your father dies there will be floods and 
earthquakes and convulsions throughout nature. I assure you that this 
is not true. Old men are dying every second of the day, and nothing 
happens except they die " 

"Oh, but Papa was a wonderful man," she said. "I J^nowl I l^nowl 
Everybody who ever knew him said the same." 

"Yes," McGuire agreed, "he was he was one of the most remarkable 
men I ever knew. And that is what makes it all the harder now." 

She looked at him eagerly, and said : 

"You mean his dying?" 

"No, Helen," McGuire spoke quietly and with a weary patience, 


'There's nothing very bad about his dying. Death seems so terrible to 
you because you know so little about it. But I have seen so much of 
death, I have seen so many people die and I know there is really noth- 
ing very terrible about it, and about the death of an old man ravaged by 
disease there is nothing terrible at all. It seems terrible to those looking 
on there are," he shrugged his fat shoulders, "there are sometimes 
physical details that are unpleasant. But the old man knows little of all 
that : an old man dies as a clock runs down he is worn out, has lost the 
will to live, he wants to die, and he just stops. That is all. And that will 
happen to your father." 

"Oh, but it will be so strange now so hard to understand!" she mut- 
tered with a bewildered look in her eyes. "We have expected him to die 
so many times we have been fooled so often and now I can't believe 
that it will ever happen. I thought that he would die in 1916, 1 never ex- 
pected him to live another year; in 1918, the year that Ben died, none of 
us could see how he'd get through the winter and then Ben died! No 
one had even thought of Ben " her voice grew cracked and hoarse and 
her eyes glistened with tears. "We had forgotten Ben every one was 
thinking about Papa and then when Ben died, I turned against 
Papa for a time. For a while I was bitter against him it seemed that 
I had done everything for this old man, that I had given him everything 
I had my life, my strength, my energy all because I thought that he 
was going to die and then Ben, who had never been given anything 
who had had nothing out of life who had been neglected and forgotten 
by us all and who was the best one the most decent one of the whole 
crowd Ben was the one who had to go. For a time after his death I 
didn't care what happened to Papa or to any one else. I was so bitter 
about Ben's death it seemed so cruel, so rotten and unjust that it had 
to be Ben of all the people in the world only twenty-six years old and 
without a thing to show for his life no love, no children, no happiness^ 
cheated out of everything, when Papa had had so much I couldn't 
stand the thought of it, even npw I hate to go to Mama's house, it almost 
kills me to go near Ben's room, I've never been in it since the night he 
died and somehow I was bitter against Papa! It seemed to me that he 
had cheated me, tricked me at times I got so bitter that I thought that 
he was responsible in some way for Ben's death. I said I was through 
with him, that I would do nothing else for him, that I had done all 
that I intended to do, and that somebody else would have to take care 
<y him. . . . But it all came back; he had another bad spell and J was 


afraid that he was going to die, and I couldn't stand the thought of it 
. . . And it has gone on now so long, year after year, and year after 
year," she said in a frenzied tone, "always thinking that he couldn't 
last and seeing him come back again, that I couldn't believe that it would 
ever happen. I can't believe it now. . . . And what am I going to do?" 
she said hoarsely and desperately, clutching McGuire by the sleeve, 
"what am I going to do now if he really dies? What is there left for me 
in life with Papa gone?" Her voice was almost sobbing now with grief 
and desperation "He's all I've got to live for, Doctor McGuire. I've 
got nothing out of life that I wanted or expected it's all been so different 
from the way I thought it was I've had nothing no fame, no glory, 
no success, no children everything has gone Papa is all that I have 
left! If he dies what shall I do?" she cried frantically, shaking him by 
the sleeve. "That old man is all I've got the only thing I've got left to 
live for; to keep him alive, to make him comfortable, to ease his pain, to 
see he gets good food and attention somehow, somehow," she panted 
desperately, clasping her big bony hands in a gesture of unconscious 
but pitiable entreaty, and beginning to rock unsteadily on her feet as 
she spoke "somehow, somehow, to keep life in him, to keep him 
here, not to let him go that's all I've got to live for what in the name 
>f God am I going to do when that is taken from me?" 

And she paused, panting and exhausted by her tirade, her big face 
strained and quivering, glaring at him with an air of frantic entreaty 
as if it was in his power to give the answers to these frenzied questions. 
And for a moment he said nothing; he just stood there looking at her 
with the coarse and brutal stare of his blotched face, his venous yellowed 
eyes, the wet cigarette stuck comically at the corner of one fat lip. 

"What are you going to do?" he barked, presently. "You're going to 
get hold of yourself pull yourself together amount to something, 
be somebody!" He coughed chokingly to one side, for a moment there 
was just the sound of his thick short breathing, then he flung the ciga- 
rette away, and said quietly: 

"Helen, for God's sake, don't throw your life away! Don't destroy 
the great creature that lies buried in you somewhere wake it up, make 
it come to life. Don't talk to me of this old man's life as if it were 
your own " 

"It is, it is!" she said in a brooding tone of morbid fatality. 

"It is not!" he said curtly, "unless you make it so unless you play the 
weakling and the fool and throw yourself away. For God's sake, don't 


let that happen to you. I have seen it happen to so many people some 
of them fine people like yourself, full of energy, imagination, intelli- 
gence, ability all thrown away, frittered away like that," he flung fat 
fingers in the air "because they did not have the guts to use what God 
had given them to make a new life for themselves to stand on their 
own feet and not to lean upon another's shoulder! . . . Don't die the 
death!" he rasped coarsely, staring at her with his brutal face. "Don't 
die the rotten, lousy, dirty death-in-life the only death that's really hor- 
rible! For God's sake, don't betray life and yourself and the oeople 
who love you by dying that kind of death! I've seen it happen to so 
many people and it was always so damned useless, such a rotten waste! 
That's what I was trying to say to you a few minutes ago it's not the 
death of the dying that is terrible, it is the death of the living. And we 
always die that death for the same reason: because our father dies, 
and takes from us his own life, his world, his time and we haven't cour- 
age enough to make a new life, a new world for ourselves. I wonder 
if you know how often that thing happens how often I have seen it 
happen the wreck, the ruin, and the tragedy it has caused in life! 
When the father goes, the whole structure of the family life goes with 
him and unless his children have the will, the stuff, the courage to 
make something of their own, they die, too. . . . With you, it's going to 
be very hard when your father dies; he was a man of great vitality 
and a strong personality who has left a deep impression on every one 
who knew him. And for seven years now, your father's death has been 
your life. ... It has become a part of you, you have brooded over it, 
lived with it, soaked in it, been tainted by it and now it is going to be 
hard for you to escape. But escape you must, and stand on your own 
feet or you are lost. . . . Helen!" he barked sharply, and fixed her with 
his coarse and brutal stare "listen to me: your childhood, Woodson 
Street, getting your father over drunks, cooking for him, nursing him, 
feeding him, dressing and undressing him I know about it all, I saw 
it all and now!" he paused, staring at her, then made a sudden ges- 
ture outward, palms downward, of his two thick hands "over, done 
for, gone forever! It's no good any more, it won't work any more, 
it can't be brought back any more forget about it!" 

"Oh, I can't! I can't!" she said desperately. "I can't give him up I 
can't let him go he's all I've got. Doctor McGuire," she said earnestly, 
"ever since I was a kid of ten and you first came to get Papa over one 
of his sprees, I've fairly worshipped you! I've always felt down in my 


heart that you were one of the most wonderful people the most won- 
derful doctor in the world! I've always felt that at the end you could 
do anything perform a miracle bring him back. For God's sake, don't 
go back on me now! Do something anything you canbut save him, 
save him." 

He was silent for a moment, and just stared at her with his yellow, 
venous eyes. And when he spoke his voice was filled with the most 
quiet and utter weariness of despair that she had ever heard: 

"Save him?" he said. "My poor child, I can save no one nothing 
least of all myself." 

And suddenly she saw that it was true; she saw that he was lost, that 
he was done for, gone, and that he knew it. His coarse and bloated face 
was mottled by great black purplish patches, his yellow weary eyes al- 
ready had the look of death in them; the knowledge of death rested 
with an unutterable weariness in his burly form, was audible in the 
short thick labor of his breath. She saw instantly that he was going to 
die, and with that knowledge her heart was torn with a rending pity as 
if a knife had been driven through it and twisted there; all of the bright- 
ness dropped out of the day, and in that moment it seemed that the 
whole substance and structure of her life was gone. 

The day was a shining one, full of gold and sapphire and sparkle, and 
in the distance, toward the east, she could see the sweet familiar green 
of hills. She knew that nothing had been changed at all, and yet even 
the brightness of the day seemed dull and common to her. It served 
only to make more mean and shabby the rusty buildings and the street 
before her. And the bright light filled her with a nameless uneasiness 
and sense of shame: it seemed to expose her, to show her imperfections 
nakedly, and instinctively she turned away from it into the drugstore, 
where there were coolness, artificial lights and gaiety, the clamor of 
voices and people that she knew. And she.knew that most of them had 
come here for the same reason because the place gave them a sort of 
haven, however brief and shabby, from the naked brightness of the day 
and their sense of indefinable uncertitude and shame because "it was 
the only place there was to go." 

Several young people, two girls and a boy were coming down among 
the crowded tables towards one of the mirrored booths against the 
wall, where another boy and girl were waiting for them. As they ap- 
proached, she heard their drawling voices, t-alking "cute nigger-talk" 
as her mind contemptuously phrased it, the vapid patter phrased to a 


monotonous formula of "charm," inane, cheap, completely vulgar, and as 
if they had been ugly little monsters of some world of dwarfs she listened 
to them with a detached perspective of dislike and scorn. 

One of the girls the one already in the booth was calling to the 
others in tones of playful protest, in her "cute," mannered, empty little 

"Hey, theah, you all! Wheah you been! Come on, heah, man!" she 
cried urgently and reproachfully toward the approaching youth "We 
been lookin' up an' down faw you! What you been doin', anyhow?" 
she cried with reproachful curiosity. "We been waitin' heah an' waitin* 
heah until it seemed lak you nevah would come! We wuh about to 
give you up!" 

"Child!" another of the girls drawled back, and made a languid 
movement of the hand a move indicative of resignation and defeat. 
"Don't tawk! I thought we nevah would get away. . . . That Jawdan 
woman came in to sec Mothah just as me an' Jim was fixin' to go out, 
an' child!" again the languid movement of exhaustion and defeat 
"when that woman gits stahted tawkin' you might as well give up! No 
one else can git a wuhd in edgeways. I'll declayah!" the voice went up, 
and the hand again made its languid movement of surrender "I nevah 
huhd the lak of it in all mah days! That's the tawkinest woman that 
evah lived. You'd a-died if you could a-seen the way Jim looked. I 
thought he was goin' to pass right out befoah we got away from 

"Lady," said Jim, who had as yet taken no part in the conversation, 
"you said it! It sho'ly is the truth! That sho is one tawkin' woman 
an' I don't mean maybe, eithah!" He drawled these words out with an 
air of pert facetiousness, and then looked round him with a complacent 
smirk on his young, smooth, empty face to see if his display of wit had 
been noticed and properly appreciated. 

And Helen, passing by, kept smiling, plucking at her chin abstracted- 
ly, feeling toward these young people a weary disgust that was tinged 
with a bitter and almost personal animosity. 

"Awful little made up girls . . . funny-looking little boys . . . nothing 
to do but hang out here and loaf . . . walk up and down the street . . . and 
drink coca-cola all day long . . . and to think it seemed so wonderful to 
me when I was a kid, to dress up and go up town and come in here 
where Papa was. . . . How dull and cheap and dreary it all is!" 



A LITTLE after three o'clock one morning in June, Hugh McGuire 
was seated at his desk in the little office which stood just to the left of the 
entrance hall at the Altamont Hospital, of which institution he was chief 
of staff and principal owner. McGuire's burly bloated form was seated 
in a swivel chair and sprawled forward, his fat arms resting on the 
desk which was an old-fashioned roll-top affair with a number of small 
cubby-holes above and with two parallel rows of drawers below. In the 
space below the desk and between the surgeon's fat legs there was a 
gallon jug of corn whiskey. 

And on the desk there was a stack of letters which had also been de- 
livered to him the day before. The letters had been written to one of 
McGuire's own colleagues by a certain very beautiful lady of the town, 
of whom it is only necessary to say that she was not McGuire's wife and 
that he had known her for a long time. The huge man curiously 
enough, not only a devoted father and a loyal husband, but a creature 
whose devotion to his family had been desperately intensified by the 
bitter sense of his one unfaith had been for many years obsessed 
by one of those single, fatal and irremediable passions which great crea- 
tures of this sort feel only once in life, and for just one woman. Now 
the obsession of that mad fidelity was gone exploded in an instant by 
a spidery scheme of words upon a page, a packet of torn letters in a 
woman's hand. Hence, this sense now of a stolid, slow, and cureless 
anguish in the man, the brutal deliberation of his drunkenness. Since 
finding these letters upon his desk when he had returned at seven o'clock 
the night before from his visit to Gant, McGuire had not left his office 
or moved in his chair, except to bend with a painful grunt from time to 
time, feel between his legs with a fat hand until he found the jug, and 
then, holding it with a bear-like solemnity between his paws, drink long 
and deep of the raw, fiery, and colorless liquid in the jug. He had done 
this very often, and now the jug was two-thirds empty. As he read, his 
mouth was half open and a cigarette was stuck on the corner of one fat 
lip, a look that suggested a comical drunken stupefaction. The hospital 
had long since gone to sleep, and in the little office there was no sound 
save the ticking of a clock and McGuire's short, thick, and stertorous 
breathing. Then when he had finished a letter, he would fold it carefully, 
put it back in its envelope, rub his thick fingers across the stubble of 
brown-reddish beard that covered his bloated and discolored face, reach 


with a painful grunt for the glass jug, drink, and open up another letter. 

And from time to time he would put a letter down before he had 
finished reading it, take up a pen, and begin to write upon a sheet of 
broad hospital stationery, of which there was a pad upon the desk. And 
McGuire wrote as he read, slowly, painfully, carefully, with a fixed and 
drunken attentiveness, no sound except the minute and careful scratch- 
ing of the pen in his fat hands, and the short, thick stertorous breathing 
as he bent over the tablet, his cigarette plastered comically at the edge 
of one fat lip. 

McGuire would read the letters over and over, slowly, carefully, and 
Solemnly. Burly, motionless and with no sound save for the short and 
stertorous labor of his breath he stared with drunken fixity at the pages 
which he held close before his yellowed eyes, his bloated face. He had 
read each letter at least a dozen times during the course of the long eve- 
ning. And each time that he finished reading it, he would fold it care- 
fully with his thick fingers, put it back into its envelope, bend and reach 
down between his fat legs with a painful grunt, fumble for the liquor 
jug, and then drink long and deep. 

It seemed that a red-hdt iron had been driven through his heart 
and twisted there; the liquor burned in his blood and guts like fire; and 
each time that he had finished reading that long letter, he would grunt, 
reach for the jug again, and then slowly and painfully begin to scrawl 
some words down on the pad before him. 

He had done this at least a dozen times that night, and each time 
after a few scrawled lines, he would grunt impatiently, wad the paper 
up into a crumpled ball and throw it into the waste-paper basket at his 
side. Now, a little after three o'clock in the morning, he was writing 
steadily; there was no sound now in the room save for the man's thick 
short breathing, and the minute scratching of his pen across the paper. 
An examination of these wadded balls of paper, however, in the order 
in which they had been written, would have revealed perfectly the suc- 
cessive states of feeling in the man's spirit. " 

The first, which was written after his discovery of the letters, was just 
a few scrawled words without punctuation or grammatical coherence, 
ending abruptly in an explosive splintered movement of the pen, and 
read simply and expressively as follows: 

"You bitch you damned dirty trollop of a lying whore you " 

And this ended here in ah explosive scrawl of splintered ink, and 
had been wadded up and thrown away into the basket. 



HELEN had lain awake for hours in darkness, in a strange comatose 
state of terror and hallucination. There was no sound save the sound 
of Barton's breathing, beside her, but in her strange drugged state she 
would imagine she heard all kinds of sounds. And she lay there in 
the dark, her eyes wide open, wide awake, plucking at her large cleft 
chin abstractedly, in a kind of drugged hypnosis, thinking like a child: 

"What is that ? l . . . Some one is coming! . . . That was a car that 
stopped outside. . . . Now they're coming up the steps. . . . There's 
some one knocking at the door. . . . Oh, my God! . . . It's about Papa! 
. . . He's had another attack, they've come to get me ... he's dead! . . . 
Hugh! Hugh! Wake up!" she said hoarsely, and seized him by the arm. 
And he woke, his sparse hair touselled, grumbling sleepily. 

"Hugh! Hugh!" she whispered. "It's Papa he's dying . . . they're 
at the door now! ... oh, for heaven's sake, get up!" she almost screamed, 
in a state of frenzied despair and exasperation. "Aren't you good for 
anything! . . . Don't lie there like a dummy Papa may be dying! Get 
up! Get up! There's some one at the door! My God, you can at least 
go and find out what it is! Oh, get up, get up, I tell you! . . . Don't 
leave everything to me! You're a man you can at least do that much!" 
and by now her voice was almost sobbing with exasperation. 

"Well, all right, all right!" he grumbled in a tone of protest, "I'm go- 
ing! Only give me a moment to find my slippers and my bath-robe, won't 

And, hair still twisted, tall, bony, thin to emaciation, he felt around 
with his bare feet until he found his slippers, stepped gingerly into them, 
and put on his bath-robe, tying the cord around his waist, and looking 
himself over in the mirror carefully, smoothing down his rumpled hair 
and making a shrugging motion of the shoulders. And she looked at 
him with a tortured and exasperated glare, saying: 

"Oh, slow, slow, slow! . . . My God, you're the slowest thing that ever 
lived! ... I could walk from here to California in the time it takes you 
to get out of bed." 

"Well, I'm going, I'm going," he said again with surly protest, "I 
don't want to go to the front door naked only give me a minute to get 
ready, won't you?" 

"Then, go, go, go!" she almost screamed at him. "They've been there 


for fifteen minutes. . . . They're almost hammering the door down for 
God's sake go and find out if they've come because of Papa, I beg of 

And he went hastily, still preserving a kind of dignity as he stepped 
along gingerly in his bath-robe and thin pyjamaed legs. And when he 
got to the door, there was no one, nothing there. The street outside 
was bare and empty, the houses along the street dark and hushed with 
their immense and still attentiveness of night and silence and the sleep' 
ers, the trees were standing straight and lean with their still young leaf- 
age and he came back again growling surlily. 

"Ah-h, there's no one there! You didn't hear anything! . . . You 
imagined the whole thing!" 

And for a moment her eyes had a dull appeased look, she plucked at 
her large cleft chin and said in an abstracted tone: "Ah-hah! . . . Well, 
come on back to bed, honey, and get some sleep." 

"Ah, get some sleep!" he growled, scowling angrily as he took off his 
robe and scuffed the slippers from his feet. "What chance do I have 
to get any sleep any more with you acting like a crazy woman half the 

She snickered hoarsely and absently, still plucking at her chin, as he 
lay down beside her; she kissed him, and put her arms around him with 
a mothering gesture: 

"Well, I know, Hugh," she said quietly, "you've had a hard time of it, 
but someday we will get away from it and live our own life. I know you 
didn't marry the whole damn family but just try to put up with it a lit- 
tle longer: Papa has not got long to live, he's all alone over there in that 
old house and she can't realize she doesn't understand that he is dy- 
ing she'll never wake up to the fact until he's gone! I lie here at night 
thinking about it and I can't go to sleep ... I get funny notions in my 
head." As she spoke these words the dull strained look came into her 
eyes again, and her big-boned generous face took on the warped out- 
line of hysteria "You know, I get queer." She spoke the word in a 
puzzled and baffled way, the dull strained look becoming more pro- 
nounced "I think of him over there all alone in that old house, and 
then I think they're coming for me " she spoke the word "they" in this 
same baffled and puzzled tone, as if she did not clearly understand who 
"they" were "I think the telephone is ringing, or that some one is 
coming up the steps and then I hear them knocking at the door, and 
then I hear them talking to me, telling me to come quick, he needs me 


and then I hear him calling to me 'Baby! Oh, baby come quick, baby, 
for Jesus' sake!' " 

"You've been made the goat," he muttered, "you've got to bear the 
whole burden on your shoulders. You're cracking up under the strain. 
If they don't leave you alone I'm going to take you away from here." 

"Do you think it's right?" she demanded in a frenzied tone again, re- 
sponding thirstily to his argument. "Why, good heavens, Hugh! I've 
got a right to my own life the same as anybody else. Don't you think I 
have? I married you!" she cried, as if there were some doubt of the 
fact. "I wanted a home of my own, children, my own life good heav- 
ens, we have a right to that just the same as any one else! Don't you 
think we have?" 

"Yes," he said grimly, "and I'm going to see we get it. I'm tired of see- 
ing you made the victim! If they don't give you some peace or quiet 
we'll move away from this town." 

"Oh, it's not that I mind doing it for Papa," she said more quietly. 
"Good heavens, I'll do anything to make that poor old man happier. If 
only the rest of them well, honey," she said, breaking off abruptly, 
"let's forget about it! It's too bad you've got to go through all this now, 
but it won't last forever. After Papa is gone, we'll get away from it. 
Some day we'll have a chance to lead our own lives together." 

"Oh, it's all right about me, dear," the man said quietly, speaking the 
word "dear" in the precise and nasal way Ohio people have. He was 
silent for a moment, and when he spoke again, his lean seamed face 
and care-worn eyes were quietly eloquent with the integrity of devotion 
and loyalty that was of the essence of his life. "I don't mind it for my- 
self only I hate to see you get yourself worked up to this condition. 
I'm afraid you'll crack under the strain : that's all I care about." 

"Well, forget about it. It can't be helped. Just try to make the best of 
it. Now go on back to sleep, honey, and try to get some rest before 
you have to get up." 

And returning her kiss, with an obedient and submissive look on his 
lean face, he said quietly, "Good night, dear," turned, over on his side and 
closed his eyes. 

She turned the light out, and now again there was nothing but dark- 
ness, silence, the huge still hush and secrecy of night, her husband's 
quiet breath of sleep as he lay beside her. And again she could not sleep, 
but lay there plucking absently at her large cleft chin, her eyes open, 


turned upward into darkness in a stare of patient, puzzled, and ab- 
stracted thought. 


FoRalongtimenow,McGuire had sat there without moving, sprawled 
out upon the desk in a kind of drunken stupor. About half-past three 
the telephone upon the desk began to ring, jangling the hospital silence 
with its ominous and insistent clangor, but the big burly figure of the 
man did not stir, he made no move to answer. Presently he heard the 
brisk heel-taps of Creasman, the night superintendent, coming along the 
heavy oiled linoleum of the corridor. She entered, glanced quickly at 
him, and saying, "Shall I take it?" picked up the phone, took the re- 
ceiver from its hook, said "hello" and listened for a moment. He did 
not move. 

In a moment, the night superintendent said quietly : 

"Yes, I'll ask him." 

When she spoke to him, however, her tone had changed completely 
from the cool professional courtesy of her speech into the telephone: 
putting the instrument down upon the top of the desk, and covering 
the mouth-piece with her hand, she spoke quietly to him, but with a 
note of cynical humor in her voice, bold, coarse, a trifle mocking. 

"It's your wife," she said. "What shall I tell her?" 

He regarded her stupidly for a moment before he answered. 

"What does she want?" he grunted. 

She looked at him with hard eyes touched with pity and regret. 

"What do you think a woman wants?" she said. "She wants to know 
: you are coming home tonight." 

He stared at her, and then grunted: 

"Won't go home." 

She took her hand away from the mouth-piece instantly, and taking 
up the phone again, spoke smoothly, quietly, with cool crisp courtesy: 

"The doctor will not be able to go homelonight, Mrs. McGuire. He 
has to operate at seven-thirty. . . . Yes. . . . Yes. ... At seven-thirty. . . . 
He has decided it is best to stay here until the operation is over. . . . Yes. 
. . . I'll tell him Thank you Good-bye." 

She hung up quietly and then turning to him, her hands arched 
cleanly on starched hips, she looked at him for a moment with a bold 
sardonic humor. 




"Nothing," she said quietly. "Nothing at all. What else is there U& 

He made no answer but just kept staring at her in his bloated drunken 
way with nothing but the numb swelter of that irremediable anguish 
in his heart. In a moment, her voice hardening imperceptibly, the nurse 
spoke quietly again: 

"Oh, yes and I forgot to tell you you had another call tonight." 

He moistened his thick lips, and mumbled : 

'Who was it?" 

It was that woman of yours." 

There was no sound save the stertorous labor of his breath; he stare3 
at her with his veined and yellowed eyes, and grunted stolidly: 

"What did she want?" 

"She wanted to know if the doc-taw was theah," Creasman said in a 
coarse and throaty parody of refinement. "And is he coming in tonight ? 
Really, I should like to know. . . . Ooh, yaas," Creasman went on 
throatily, adding a broad stroke or two on her own account. "I simply 
must find out! I cawn't get my sleep in until I do. ... Well," she 
demanded harshly, "what am I going to tell her if she calls again?" 

"What did she say to tell me?" 

"She said" the nurse's tone again was lewdly tinged with parody "to 
tell you that she is having guests for dinner tomorrow night this eve- 
ning and that you simply got to be thoh, you, and your wife, too ooh, 
Gawd, yes! the Reids are comin', don't-cherknow and if you are not 
thoh Gawd only knows what will happen!" 

He glowered at her drunkenly for a moment, and then, waving thick 
fingers at her in disgust, he mumbled : 

"You got a dirty mouth . . . don't become you. . . . Unlady-like. . . . 
Don't like a dirty-talkin' woman. . . . Never did. . . . Unbecomin'. . ... 
Unlady-like. . . . Nurses all alike ... all dirty talkers . . . don't like 'em.** 

"Oh, dirty talkers, your granny!" she said coarsely. "Now you leavft 
the nurses alone. . . . They're decent enough girls, most of 'em, until 
they come here and listen to you for a month or two. . . . You listen to 
me, Hugh McGuire; don't blame the nurses. When it comes to dirty 
talking, you can walk off with the medals any day in the week. . . . 
Even if I am your cousin, I had a good Christian raising out in the 
country before I came here. So don't talk to me about nurses' dirty 
talk: after a few sessions with you in the operating room even the 
Virgin Mary could use language fit to make a monkey blush. So don't 


blame it on the nurses. Most of them are white as snow compared 
to you." 

"You're dirty talkers all of you," he muttered, waving his thick 
fingers in her direction. "Don't like it. ... Unbecomin' in a lady." 

For a moment she did not answer, but stood looking at him, arms 
akimbo on her starched white hips, a glance that was bold, hard, sar- 
donic, but somehow tinged with a deep and broad affection. 

Then, taking her hands off her hips, she bent swiftly over him, reached 
down between his legs, and -got the jug and lifting it up to the light in 
order to make her cynical inspection of its depleted contents more ac- 
curate, she remarked with ironic approbation: 

"My, my! You're doing pretty well, aren't you? . . . Well, it won't be 
long now, will it?" she said cheerfully, and then turning to him abruptly 
and accusingly, demanded : 

"Do you realize that you were supposed to call Helen Gant at twelve 
o'clock?" She glanced swiftly at the clock "Just three and a half hours 
ago. Or did you forget it?" 

He passed his thick hand across the reddish unshaved stubble of his 

"Who?" he said stupidly. "Where? What is it?" 

"Oh', nothing to worry about," she said with a light hard humor. 
"Just a little case of carcinoma of the prostate. He's going to die anyway, 
so you've got nothing to worry about at all." 

"Who?" he said stupidly again. "Who is it?" 

"Oh, just a man," she said gaily. "An old, old man named Mr. Gant. 
You've been his physician for twenty years, but maybe you've forgotten 
him. You know they come and go; some live and others die it's all 
right, this one's going to die. They'll bury him it'll all come out right 

one way or the other so you've nothing to worry about at all Even 

if you kill him," she said cheerfully. "He's just an old, old man with 
cancer, and bound to die anyway, so promise me you won't worry about 
it too much, will you?" 

She looked at him a moment longer; then, putting her hand under his 
fat chin, she jerked his head up sharply. He stared at her stupidly with 
his yellowed drunken eyes, and in them she saw the mute anguish of a 
tortured animal, and suddenly her heart was twisted with pity for him. 

"Look here," she said, in a hard and quiet voice, "what's wrong 
with you?" 

In a moment he mumbled thickly: 


"Nothing's wrong with me." 

"Is it the woman business again ? For God's sake, are you never going 
to grow up, McGuire ? Are you going to remain an overgrown school- 
boy all your life ? Are you going to keep on eating your heart out over a 
bitch who thinks that spring is here every time her hind end itches? 
Arc you going to throw your life away, and let your work go to smash 
because some damned woman in the change of life has done you dirt! 
What kind of man are you, anyway?" she jeered. "Jesus God! If it's a 
woman that you want the woods are full of 'em. Besides," she added, 
"what's wrong with your own wife! She's worth a million of those flossy 

He made no answer and in a moment she went on in a harsh and 
jeering tone that was almost deliberately coarse: 

"Haven't you learned yet, with all you've seen of it, that a piece of 
tail is just a piece of tail, and that in the dark it doesn't matter one good 
God-damn whether it's brown, black, white, or yellow?" 

Even as she spoke, something cold and surgical in his mind, which no 
amount of alcohol seemed to dull or blur, was saying accurately : "Why 
do they all feel such contempt for one another ? What is it in them that 
makes them despise themselves?" 

Aloud, however, waving his thick fingers at her in a gesture of fat 
disgust, he said : 

"Creasman, you got a dirty tongue. . . . Don't like to hear a woman 
talk like that. . . . Never liked to hear a dirty-talkin' woman. . . . You're 
no lady!" 

"Ah-h! No lady!" she said bitterly, and let her hands fall in a ges- 
ture of defeat, "All right, you poor fool, if that's the way you feel about 
it, go ahead and drink yourself to death over your 'lady.' That's what's 
wrong with you." 

And, muttering angrily, she left him. He sat there stupidly, without 
moving, until her firm heel-taps had receded down the silent hall, and 
he heard a door close. Then he reached down between his knees, and got 
the jug, and drank again. And again there was nothing in the place ex- 
cept the sound of silence, the rapid ticking of a little clock, the thick 
short breathing of the man. 


SOMEWHERE, far away, across the cool sweet silence of the night, Helen 
heard the sound of a train. For a moment she could hear the faint and 


ghostly tolling of its bell, the short explosive blasts of its hard labor, now 
muted almost into silence, now growing near, immediate as it labored 
out across the night from the enclosure of a railway cut down by the 
river's edge; and for an instant she heard the lonely wailing and receding 
cry of the train's whistle, and then the long heavy rumble of its wheels; 
and then nothing but silence, darkness, the huge hush and secrecy of 
night again. 

And still plucking at her chin, thinking absently, but scarcely con- 
scious of her thinking, like a child in revery, she thought: 

"There is a freight-train going west along the river. Now, by the 
sound, it should be passing below Patton Hill, just across from where 
Riverside Park used to be before the flood came and washed it all away. 
. . . Now it is getting farther off, across the river from the casket fac- 
tory. . . . Now it is almost gone, I can hear nothing but the sound 
of wheels ... it is going west toward Boiling Springs . . . and after that 
it will come to Wilson City, Tennessee . . . and then to Dover. . . . 
Knoxville . . . Memphis after that? I wonder where the train is 
going . . . where it will be tomorrow night? . . . Perhaps across the 
Mississippi River, and then on through Arkansas . . . perhaps to St. 
Louis . . . and then on to what comes next?" she thought absently, 
plucking at her chin "to Kansas City, I suppose . . . and then to Den- 
ver ... and across the Rocky Mountains . , . and across the desert . . . 
and then across more mountains and then at last to California." 

And still plucking at her chin, and scarcely conscious of her thought 
not thinking indeed so much as reflecting by a series of broken but 
powerful images all cogent to a central intuition about life her mind 
resumed again its sleepless patient speculation : 

"How strange and full of mystery life is. ... Tomorrow we shall all 
get up, dress, go out on the streets, see and speak to one another and 
yet we shall know absolutely nothing about any one else. ... I know 
almost every one in town the bankers, the lawyers, the butchers, the 
bakers, the grocers, the clerks in the stores, the Greek restaurant man, 
Tony Scarsati the fruit dealer, even the niggers down in Niggertown 
I know them all, as well as their wives and children where they came 
from, what they are doing, all the lies and scandals and jokes and mean 
stories, whether true or false, that are told about them and yet I really 
know nothing about any of them. I know nothing about any one, not 
even about myself " and suddenly, this fact seemed terrible and gro- 
tesque to her, and she thought desperately: 


"What is wrong with people? . . . Why do we never get to know one 
another ? . . . Why is it that we get born and live and die here in this 
world without ever finding out what any one else is like ? . . . No, what 
is the strangest thing of all why is it that all our efforts to know 
people in this world lead only to greater ignorance and confusion 
than before ? We get together and talk, and say we think and feel and 
believe in such a way, and yet what we really think and feel and believe 
we never say at all. Why is this? We talk and talk in an effort to un- 
derstand another person, and yet almost all we say is false: we hardly 
ever say what we mean or tell the truth it all leads to greater misunder- 
standing and fear than before it would be better if we said nothing. 
Tomorrow I shall dress and go out on the street and bow and smile and 
flatter people, laying it on with a trowel, because I want them to like 
me, I want to make 'a good impression,' to be a 'success' and yet I have 
no notion what it is all about. When I pass Judge Junius Pearson on the 
street, I will smile and bow, and try to make a good impression on him, 
and if he speaks to me I shall almost fawn upon him in order to flatter 
my way into his good graces. Why ? I do not like him, I hate his long 
pointed nose, and the sneering and disdainful look upon his face: I think 
he is 'looking down' on me but I know that he goes with the 'swell* 
Social set and is invited out to all the parties at Catawba House by Mrs. 
Goulderbilt and is received by them as a social equal. And I feel that if 
Junius Pearson should accept me as his social equal it would help me 
get me forward somehow make me a success get me an invitation to 
Catawba House. And yet it would get me nothing; even if I were Mrs. 
Goulderbilt's closest friend, what good would it do me? But the 
people I really like and feel at home with are working people of Papa's 
kind. The people I really like are Ollie Gant, and old man Alec 
Ramsay, and big Mike Fogarty, and Mr. Jannadeau, and Myrtis, my 
little nigger servant girl, and Mr. Luther, the fish man down in the 
market, and the nigger Jacken, the fruit and vegetable man, and Ernest 
Pegram, and Mr. Duncan and the Tarkintons all the old neighbors 
down on Woodson Street and Tony Scarsati and Mr. Pappas. Mr. 
Pappas is just a Greek lunchroom proprietor, but he seems to me to be 
one of the finest people I have ever known, and yet if Junius Pearson 
saw me talking to him I should try to make a joke out of it to make a 
joke out of talking to a Greek who runs a restaurant. In the same way, 
when some of my new friends see me talking to people like Mr. Janna- 
or Mike Fogarty or Ollie or Ernest Pegram or the Tarkintons or 


the old Woodson Street crowd, I feel ashamed or embarrassed, and turn 
it oil as a big joke. I laugh about Mr. Jannadeau and his dirty fingers and 
the way he picks his nose, and old Alec Ramsay and Ernest Pegram 
spitting tobacco while they talk, and then I wind up by appearing to be 
democratic and saying in a frank and open manner 'Well, I like them 
... I don't care what any one says' (when no one has said anything!), 'I 
like them, and always have. If the truth is told, they're just as good as 
any one else!' as if there is any doubt about it, and as if I should 
have to justify myself for being 'democratic.' Why 'democratic' ? Why 
should I apologize or defend myself for liking people when no one has 
accused me? 

"I'm pushing Hugh ahead now all the time; he's tired and sick and 
worn-out and exhausted but I keep 'pushing him ahead' without 
knowing what it is we're pushing ahead toward, where it will all wind 
up. What is it all about ? I've pushed him ahead from Woodson Street 
up here to Weaver Street : and now this neighborhood has become old- 
fashioned the swell society crowd is all moving out to Grovemont 
opposite the golf-course; and now I'm pushing him to move out there, 
build upon the lot we own, or buy a house. I've 'pushed' him and myself 
until now he belongs to the Rotary Club, and I belong to the Thursday 
Literary Club, the Orpheus Society, the Saturday Musical Guild, the 
Woman's Club, the Discussion Group, and God knows what else all 
these silly and foolish little clubs in which we have no interest and yet 
it would kill us if we did not belong to them, we feel that they are a 
sign that we are 'getting ahead.' Getting ahead to what ? 

"And it is the same with all of us : pretend, pretend, pretend show- 
off, show-off, show-off try to keep up with the neighbors and to go 
ahead of them and never a word of truth; never a word of what we 
really feel, and understand and know. The one who shouts the loudest 
goes the farthest: Mrs. Richard Jeter Ebbs sits up on top of the whole 
heap, she goes everywhere and makes speeches; people say 'Mrs. Richard 
Jeter Ebbs said so-and-so' and all because she shouts out everywhere 
that she is a lady and a member of an old family and the widow of 
Richard Jeter Ebbs. And no one in town ever met Richard Jeter Ebbs, 
they don't know who he was, what he did, where he came from; neither 
do they know who Mrs. Richard Jeter Ebbs was, or where she came 
from, or who or what her family was. 

"Why are we all so false, cowardly, cruel, and disloyal toward one an- 
otber and toward ourselves ? Whv do we spend our davs in doine use- 


less things, in false-pretense and triviality? Why do we waste ouf 
li ves exhaust our energy throw everything good away on falseness 
and lies and emptiness? Why do we deliberately destroy ourselves this 
way, when we want joy and love and beauty and it is all around us in 
the world if we would only take it? Why are we so afraid and ashamed 
when there is really nothing to be afraid and ashamed of? Why have 
we wasted everything, thrown our lives away, what is this horrible thing 
in life that makes us throw ourselves away to hunt out death when 
what we want is life ? Why is it that we are always strangers in this 
world, and never come to know one another, and are full of fear and 
shame and hate and falseness, when what we want is love? Why is it? 
Why? Why? Why?" 

And with that numb horror of disbelief and silence and the dark 
about her, in her, filling her, it seemed to her suddenly that there was 
some monstrous and malevolent force in life that held all mankind in its 
spell and that compelled men to destroy themselves against their will. 
It seemed to her that everything in life the things men did and said, 
the way they acted was grotesque, perverse, and accidental, that there 
was no reason for anything. 

A thousand scenes from her whole life, seen now with the terrible 
detachment of a spectator, and dark and sombre with the light of time, 
swarmed through her mind : she saw herself as a child of ten, hanging 
on grimly to her father, a thin fury of a little girl, during his sprees of 
howling drunkenness slapping him in the face to make him obey her, 
feeding him hot soup, undressing him, sending for McGuire, "sobering 
him up" and forcing him to obey her when no one else could come near 
him. And she saw herself later, a kind of slavey at her mother's board- 
ing house in St. Louis during the World's Fair, drudging from morn 
to night, a grain of human dust, an atom thrust by chance into the great 
roar of a distant city, or on an expedition as blind, capricious, and 
fatally mistaken as all life. Later, she saw herself as a girl in high school, 
she remembered her dreams and hopes, the pitiably mistaken innocence 
of her vision of the world; her grand ambitions to "study music," to fol- 
low a "career in grand opera"; later still, a girl of eighteen or twenty, 
amorous of life, thirsting for the great cities and voyages of the world, 
playing popular songs of the period "Love Me and the: World 
Is Mine," "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now," "Till the Sands of 
the Desert Grow Cold," and so on for her father, as he sat, on sum- 
mer evenings, on his porch; a little later, "touring" the little cities of the 


South, singing and playing the popular "rhythm" and sentimental bal- 
lads of the period in vaudeville and moving-picture houses. She re- 
membered how she had once been invited to a week-end house party 
with a dozen other young men and women of her acquaintance, and of 
how she had been afraid to go, and how desperately ashamed she was 
when she had "to go in swimming" with the others, and to "show her 
figure," her long skinny legs, even when they were concealed by the 
clumsy bathing dress and the black stockings of the period. She re- 
membered her marriage then, the first years of her life with Barton, 
her tragic failure to have children, and the long horror of Gant's last 
years of sickness the years of sombre waiting, the ever-impending ter- 
ror of his death. 

A thousand scenes from this past life flashed through her mind now, 
as she lay there in the darkness, and all of them seemed grotesque, ac- 
cidental and mistaken, as reasonless as everything in life. 

And filled with a numb, speechless feeling of despair and nameless ter- 
ror, she heard, somewhere across the night, the sound of a train again> 
and thought: 

"My God! My God! What is life about? We are all lying here in 
darkness in ten thousand little towns waiting, listening, hoping for 

And suddenly, with a feeling of terrible revelation, she saw the 
strangeness and mystery of man's life; she felt about her in the darkness 
the presence of ten thousand people, each lying in his bed, naked and 
alone, united at the heart of night and darkness, and listening, as she, tc 
the sounds of silence and of sleep. And suddenly it seemed to her that she 
knew all these lonely, strange, and unknown watchers of the night, that 
she was speaking to them, and they to her, across the fields of sleep, as 
they had never spoken before, that she knew men now in all their dark 
and naked loneliness, without falseness and pretense as she had never 
known them. And it seemed to her that if men would only listen in the 
darkness, and send the language of their naked lonely spirits across the 
silence of the night, all of the error, falseness and confusion of their 
lives would vanish, they would no longer be strangers, and each would 
find the life he sought and never yet had found. 

"If we only could!" she thought. "If we only could!" 

Then, as she listened, there was nothing but the huge hush of night 
and silence, and far away the whistle of a train. Suddenly the phone 



A FEW minutes after four o'clock that morning as McGuire lay there 
sprawled upon his desk, the phone rang again. And again he made no 
move to answer it: he just sat there, sprawled out on his fat elbows, 
staring stupidly ahead. Creasman came in presently, as the telephone 
continued to disturb the silence of the hospital with its electric menace 
and this time, without a glance at him, answered. 

It was Luke Gant. At four o'clock his father had had another hemor- 
rhage, he had lost consciousness, all efforts to awaken him had failed, 
they thought he was dying. 

The nurse listened carefully for a moment to Luke's stammering and 
excited voice, which was audible across the wire even to McGuire. 
Then, with a troubled and uncertain glance toward the doctor's sprawled 
and drunken figure, she said quietly: 

"Just a minute. I don't know if the doctor is in the hospital. Ill see if 
I can find him." 

Putting her hand over the mouthpiece, keeping her voice low, she 
spoke urgently to McGuire: 

"It's Luke Gant. He says his father 'has had another hemorrhage and 
that they can't rouse him. He wants you to come at once. What shall I 
tell him?" 

He stared drunkenly at her for a moment, and then waving his finger 
at her in a movement of fat impatience, he mumbled thickly: 

"Nothing to do. ... No use .... Can't be stopped. . . . People expect 
miracles. . . . Over. . . . Done for. . . . Tell him I'm not here . . . gone 
home," he muttered, and sprawled forward on the desk again. 

Quietly, coolly, the nurse spoke into the phone again : 

"The doctor doesn't seem to be here at the hospital, Mr. Gant. Havn 
you tried his house ? I think you may find him at home." 

"No, G-g-g-god-damn it!" Luke fairly screamed across the wire* 
"He's not at home. I've already t-t-tried to get him there. . . . N-n-n-now 
you look here, Miss Creasman!" Luke shouted angrily. "You c-c-can't 
kid me: I know where he is He's d-d-down there at the hospital right 
now wy-wy-wy stinkin' drunk! You t-t-tell hirrv G-g-g-god-damn 
his soul, that if he d-d-doesn't come, wy-wy-wy P-p-p-papa's in a bad 
way and and and f-f-frankly, I fink it's a rotten shame for McGuire to 
act this way, wy-wy-wy after he's b-b-been Papa's doctor all these years, 
F-f-frankly, I do!" 


'"Nothing to be done," mumbled McGuire. "No use. . . . All over." 

"I'll see what I can do, Mr. Gant," said Creasman quietly. "I'll let the 
doctor know as soon as he comes in!" 

"C-c-c-comes in, hell!" Luke stammered bitterly. "I'm c-c-comin* 
down there myself and g-g-get him if I have to wy wy wy d-d-drag him 
here by the s-s-scruff of his neck!" And he hung up the receiver with a 

The nurse put the phone down on the desk, and turning to McGuire, 

"He's raving. He says if you don't go, he'll come for you and get 
you himself. Can't you pull yourself together enough to go? If you 
can't drive the car, I'll send Joe along to drive it for you " Joe was a 
negro orderly in the hospital. 

"What's the use?" McGuire mumbled thickly, a little angrily. "What 
the hell do these people expect anyway ? . . I'm a doctor, not a miracle 
man. . . . The man's gone, I tell you . . . the whole gut and rectum is 
eaten away ... he can't live over a day or two longer at the most. . . . 
It's cruelty to prolong it: why the hell should I try to?" 

"All right," she said resignedly. "Do as you please. Only, he'll prob- 
ably be here for you himself in a few minutes. And since they do feel 
that way about it, I think you might make the effort just to please them." 

"Ah-h," he muttered wearily. "People are all alike. . . . They all 
want miracles." 

"Are you just going to sit here all night?" she said with a rough kind- 
liness. "Aren't you going to try to get a little sleep before you operate?" 

He waved fat fingers at her, and did not look at her. 

"Leave me alone," he mumbled; and she left him. 

When she had gone, he fumbled for the jug and drank again. And 
then, while time resumed its sanded drip, and he sat there in the silence, 
he thought again of the old dying man whom he had known first when 
he was a young doctor just beginning and with whom his own life had 
been united by so many strange and poignant memories. And thinking 
of Gant, the strangeness of the human destiny returned to haunt his 
mind; there was something that he could not speak, a wonder and a 
mystery he could not express. 

He fumbled for the jug again, and holding it solemnly in his bearish 
raws, drained it. Then he sat for several minutes without moving. 
Finally, he got up out of his chair, grunting painfully, and fumbling for 
lie walls, lurched out into the hall, and began to grope his way across 


the corridor toward the stairs. And the first step fooled him as it had 
done so many time before; he missed his step, even as a man stepping 
out in emptiness might miss, and came down heavily upon his knees. 
Then, pushing with his hands, he slid out peacefully on the oiled green 
linoleum, pillowed his big head on his arms with a comfortable grunt, 
and sprawled out flat, already half dead to the world. It was in this posi- 
tion also a familiar one that Creasman, who had heard his thump 
when falling, found him. And she spoke sharply and commandingly 
as one might speak to a little child : 

"You get right up off that floor and march upstairs," she said. "If you 
want to sleep you're going to your room; you'll not disgrace us sleeping 
on that floor." 

And like a child, as he had done so many times before, he obeyed her. 
In a moment, as her sharp command reached his drugged consciousness, 
he grunted, stirred, climbed painfully to his knees, and then, pawing 
carefully before him like a bear, unable or unwilling to stand up, he 
began to crawl slowly up the stairs. 

And it was in this position, half-way up, pawing his burly and cumber- 
some way on hands and knees, that Luke Gant found him. Cursing bit- 
terly, and stammering with wild excitement, the young man pulled him 
to his feet, Creasman sponged of! the great bloated face with a cold towel 
and assisted by Joe Corpering, the negro man, they got him down the 
stairs and out of the hospital into Luke's car. 

Dawn was just breaking, a faint glimmer of blue-silver light, with the 
still purity of the earth, the sweet fresh stillness of the trees, the bird-song 
waking. The fresh sweet air, Luke's breakneck driving through the 
silent streets. : ie roaring motor finally, the familiar and powerfully 
subdued err /on of a death chamber, the repressed hysteria, the pain 
and tension and the terror of shocked flesh, the aura of focal excitement 
around the dying man revived McGuire. 

Gant lay still and almost lifeless on the bed, his face already tinged 
with the ghostly shade of death, his breath low, hoarse, faintly rattling, 
his eyes half-closed, comatose, already glazed with death. 

McGuire sighted at his shining needle, and thrust a powerful injection 
of caffeine, sodium, and benzoate into the arm of the dying man. This 
served partially to revive him, got him through the low ebb of the dark, 
his eyes opened, cleared, he spoke again. Bright day and morning came, 
and Gant still lived. And with the light, their impossible and frenzied 


hopes came back again, as they have always been revived in desperate 
men. And Gant did not die that day. He lived on. 


BY the middle of the month Gant had a desperate attack; for four 
days now he was confined to bed, he began to bleed out of the bowels, 
he spent four sleepless days and nights of agony, and with the old terror 
of death awake again and urgent, Helen telegraphed to Luke, who was 
in Atlanta, frantically imploring him to come home at once. 

With the arrival of his son and under the stimulation of Luke's vital 
and hopeful nature, the old man revived somewhat: they got him out 
of bed, and into a new wheel-chair which they had bought for the pur- 
pose, and the day of his arrival Luke wheeled his father out into the 
bright June sunshine, and through the streets of the town, where he 
again saw friends, and renewed acquaintances he had not known in 

The next day Gant seemed better. He ate a good breakfast, by ten 
o'clock he was up and Luke had dressed him, got him into the new wheel- 
chair and was wheeling him out on the streets again in the bright sun- 
shine. All along the streets of the town people stopped and greeted the 
old man and his son, and in Gant's weary old brain there may perhaps 
have been a flicker of an old hope, a feeling that he had come to life 

"Wy-wy-wy-wy, he's f-f-f-fine as silk!" Luke would sing out in answer 
to the question of some old friend or acquaintance, before his father had 
a chance to answer. "Aren't you, C-C-C-Colonel ? Wy-wy-wy-wy Lord 
God! Mr. P-p-p-p-parker, you couldn't k-k-k-kill him with a wy wy wy 
wy wy with a b-b-butcher's cleaver. He'll be here when you and I bofe 
are p-p-p-pushing daisies." And Gant, pleased, would smile feebly, 
puffing from time to time at a cigar in the unaccustomed, clumsy, and 
pitifully hopeful way sick men have. 

Towards one o'clock Gant began to moan with pain again, and to 
entreat his son to make haste and take him home. When they got back 
before the house, Luke brought the wheel chair to a stop, and helped his 
father to get up. His stammering solicitude and over-extravagant offers 
of helf) served only to exasperate and annoy the old man who, still moan- 
ing feebly, and sniffling with trembling lip, said petulantly: 


"No, no, no. Just leave me alone to try to get a moment's peace, I 
beg of you, I ask you, for Jesus' sake." 

"Wy-wy-wy-wy, all right, P-p-p-papa," Luke stammered with earnest 
cheerfulness. "Wy-wy-wy, you're the d-d-d-doctor. Wy-wy, I'll just 
wheel the chair up on the porch and then I'll c-c-come back to your room 
and f-f-f-fix you up in a j-j-j-j-jiffy." 

"Oh, Jesus, I don't care what you do. . . . Do what you like," Gant 
moaned. "I'm in agony. . . . O Jesus!" he wept. "It's fearful, it's awful, 
it's cruel just leave me alone, I beg of you," he sniffled. 

"Wy-wy-wy, yes, sir, P-p-p-papa wy, you're the doctor," Luke said. 
"Can you make it by yourself all right?" he said anxiously, as his father, 
leaning heavily upon his cane, started up the stone steps toward the walk 
that led up to the house. 

"Why, yes, now, son," Eliza, who had heard their voices and come out 
on the porch, now said diplomatically, seeing that Luke's well-meant but 
stammering solicitude had begun to irritate his father. "Mr. Gant doesn't 
want any help you put the car up, son, and leave him alone, he's able 
to manage all right by himself." 

And Luke, muttering respectfully, "Wy-wy-wy, yes, sir, P-p-p-papa, 
you're the d-d-doctor," stopped then, lifted the chair up to the walk, and 
began to push it toward the house, not however without a troubled 
glance at the old man who was walking slowly and feebly toward the 
porch steps. And for a moment, Eliza stood surveying them and then 
turned, to stand looking at her house reflectively before she entered it 
again, her hands clasped loosely at her waist, her lips pursed in a strong 
reflective expression in which the whole pride of possession, her living 
and inseparable unity with this gaunt old house, was powerfully evident. 

It was at this moment while she stood planted there upon the sidewalk 
looking at the house, that the thing happened. Gant, still moaning 
feebly to himself, had almost reached the bottom of the steps when 
suddenly he staggered, a scream of pain and horror was torn from him; 
in that instant, the walking cane fell with a clatter to the concrete walk, 
his two great hands went down to his groin in a pitiable clutching 
gesture and crying out loudly: "O Jesus! Save me! Save me!" he fell to 
his knees, still clutching at his entrails with his mighty hands. 

Even before Eliza got to him, her flesh turned rotten at the sight. 
Blood was pouring from him; the bright arterial blood was already 
running out upon the concrete walk, the heavy black cloth of Gant's 
trousers was already sodden, turning purplish w'th the blood; the blood 


streamed through his fingers, covering his great hands. He was bleeding 
to death through the genital organs. 

Eliza rushed toward him at a strong clumsy gait; she tried to lift him, 
he was too big for her to handle, and she screamed to Luke for help. He 
came at once, running at top speed across the yard and, scarcely pausing 
in his stride, he picked up Gant's great figure in his arms it felt as 
light and fleshless as a bundle of dry sticks and turning to his mother, 
said curtly: 

"Call Helen! Quick! I'll take him to his room and get his clothes 

And holding the old man as if he were a child, he fairly raced up the 
steps and down the hall, leaving a trail of blood behind him as he went. 

Eliza, scarcely conscious of what she did, paused just long enough to 
pick up Gant's black felt hat and walking stick which had fallen to the 
Walk. Then, her face white and set as a block of marble, she rushed up 
the steps and down the hall toward the telephone. Now that the 
end had come, after all the years of agony and waiting, the knowledge 
filled her with an unbelievable, an incredulous horror. In another mo- 
ment she was talking to her daughter: 

"Oh, child, child," she said in a low tone of utter terror, "come quick! 
. . . Your father's bleeding to death!" 

There was a gasp, a sob of anguish and surprise, half broken in the 
throat, the receiver was banged on the hook without an answer: within 
four minutes Helen had arrived, Barton, usually a deliberate and cau- 
tious driver, having taken the dangerous hills and curves between at 
murderous speed. 

As she entered the hall, her mother had just finished phoning to Mc- 
Guire. Without a word of greeting the two women rushed back through 
the rear hall towards Gant's room; when they got there Luke had already 
finished undressing him. Gant lay half propped on pillows still holding 
his great hands clutched around his genitals, the sheet beneath him 
was already soaked with blood, a red wet blot that spread horribly, 
sickeningly even as they looked. Gant's cold-gray eyes were bright with 
terror. As his daughter entered the room, he looked at her with the 
pitiable entreaty of a child, a look that tore at her heart, that begged her 
the only one on earth who could, the only one who through black years 
of horror actually had by some miracle of strength and grace to save 
him. And even as he looked at her with pitiable entreaty, she saw that 
he was gone, that he was dying, and that he knew it. Cold terror drank 


her heart; without a word she seized a towel, pulled his great hands 
away from that fount of jetting blood and covered him. By the time 
McGuire arrived, they had got a fresh sheet under him: but the spread- 
ing horror of the great red blot could not be checked, the sheet was 
soaking in bright blood the moment that they got it down. 

McGuire came in and took one look, then turned toward the window, 
fumbling in his pocket for a cigarette. Helen came to him and seized 
him by his burly arms, unconsciously shaking him in the desperation of 
her entreaty. 

"You've got to make it stop," she said hoarsely, "you've got to! You've 
got to!" 

He stared at her for a moment, then stuck the cigarette in the corner 
of his thick lip, and barked coarsely: 

"Stop what? What the hell do you think I am Jehovah?" 

"You've got to! You've got to!" she muttered again, her large gaunt 
face strained with hysteria and then, suddenly, abruptly, quietly: 

"What's to be done?" 

He did not answer for a moment; he stared out the window, his coarse, 
bloated and brutally good face patched and mottled in late western light. 

"You'd better wire the others," he grunted. "That is, if you want 
them here. Tell Steve and Daisy to come on. They may make it. 
Where's Eugene?" 


He shrugged his burly shoulders and said nothing for a moment. 

"All right. Tell him to come on." 

"How long?" she whispered. 

Again he shrugged his burly shoulders, but made no answer. He lit 
his cigarette, and turned toward the bed: nothing could be heard except 
Luke's heavy and excited breathing. Both towel and sheet were red and 
wet again. Gant remained motionless, his great hands clasped upon the 
towel, his eyes bright with terror and pitiable entreaty. McGuire opened 
his old leather case, squinted at the needle, and loaded it. Then, the 
cigarette still plastered on his fat lip, coiling smoke, he walked over to 
the bed and even as Gant raised his fear-bright eyes to him, he took 
him by his stringy arm, and grunting "All right, W. O.," he plunged 
the needle in above the elbow. Gant moaned a little, and relaxed in- 
sensibly after the needie had gone in : in a few minutes his eyes grew 
dull, and his great hands loosened in their clutch. 



HE bled incredibly. It was unbelievable that an old cancer-riddled 
spectre of a man should have so much blood in him. One has often 
heard the phrase "bled white," and that is literally what happened to 
him. Some liquid still came from him, but it was almost colorless, like 
water. There was no more blood left in him. And even then he did 
not die. Instead, as if to compensate him for all these years of agony 
and mortal terror, this bitter clutch on life so desperately relinquished, 
there came now a period of almost total peace and clarity. And Helen, 
grasping hope fiercely from that unaccustomed tranquillity, tried to 
hearten him and herself with futile words; she even seized him by his 
shoulders and shook him a little, saying: 

"Why, you're all right! You're going to be all right now! The worst 
is over you'll get well now! Don't you know it?" 

And Gant covered her fingers with his own great hand and, smiling 
a little and shaking his head, looked at her, saying in a low and gentle 

"Oh, no, baby. I'm dying. It's all right now." 

And in her heart, she knew at last that she was beaten; yet she would 
not give up. The final stop of that horrible flow of blood which had 
continued unabated for a day, the unaccustomed tranquil clarity of 
Gant's voice and mind, awakened in her again all the old unreasoning 
hopefulness of her nature, its desperate refusal to accept the ultimate. 

"Oh," she said that night to Eliza, shaking her head with a strong 
movement of negation "you can't tell me! Papa's not going to die 
yet! He'll pull through this just like he's pulled through all those other 
spells. Why, his mind is as clear and sound as a bell! He knows every- 
thing that's going on around him! He hasn't talked in years as he talked 
to me tonight he was more like his old self than he's been since he took 

"Why, yes," Eliza answered instantly, eagerly catching up the drift 
of her daughter's talk, and pursuing it with the web-like, invincibly op- 
timistic hopefulness of her own nature. 

"Why, yes," she went on, pursing her lips reflectively and speaking in 
a persuasive manner. "And, see here, now! Say! Why, you know, 
I got to study in' it over tonight and it's just occurred to me now I'll tell 
you what my theory is! I believe that that old growth that awful old 


thing that well, I suppose, now, you might say that cancer' 9 she 
said, making a gesture of explanation with her broad hand "what- 
ever it is, that awful old thing that has been eating away inside him there 
for years " here she pursed her lips powerfully and shook her head in 
a short convulsive tremor of disgust "well, now, I give it as my theory 
that the whole thing tore loose in him yesterday when he had that 
attack and," she paused deliberately, looked her daughter straight in 
the eyes, and went on with a slow and telling force "and that he has 
simply gone and got that rotten old thing out of his system." 

"Then, you mean " Helen began eagerly, seizing at this fantastic 
straw as if it were the rock by which her drowning hope might be 
saved "you mean, Mama " 

"Yes, sir!" said Eliza, shaking her head slowly and positively. "That's 
exactly what I mean! I think nature has taken its own course I think 
nature has succeeded in doing what all the doctors and hospitals in the 
world were not able to do for you can rest assured," and here she 
paused, looking her daughter gravely in the eyes "you can rest assured 
that nature is the best physician in the end! Now, I've always said as 
much, and all the best authorities agree with me. Why, yes, now! here! 
say! wasn't I readin' in the paper oh! here along, you know a week 
or so ago Doctor Royal S. Copeland! yes, sir! that was the very 
feller why, he said, you know " she went on in explanatory fashion. 

"Oh, but, Mama!" Helen said, desperately, unable to make her mind 
believe this grotesque reasoning, and yet clutching at every word with a 
pleading entreaty that begged to be convinced. 

"Oh, but, Mama, surely Wade Eliot and all those other men at Hop- 
kins couldn't have been wrong! Why, Mama," she cried furiously, yet 
pleadingly "you know they couldn't after all these years after taking 
him there for treatment a dozen times or more! Why, Mama, those men 
are famous the greatest doctors in the world! Oh, surely not! Surely 
not!" she said desperately, and then gazed at Eliza pleadingly again. 

"H'm!" said Eliza, pursing her lips with a little scornful smile. "It 
won't be the first time that a doctor has been wrong I don't care how 
famous they may be! You can rest assured of that! It's always been my 
opinion that they're wrong about as often as they're right only you 
can't prove it on 'em. They bury their mistakes." She was silent a 
moment, looking at her daughter in a sudden, straight and deadly fash- 
ion, with a little smile at the corners of her mouth. "Now, child, I want 
to tell you something. ... I want to tell you what I saw today." Again 


she was silent, looking straight in her daughter's eyes, smiling her quiet 
little smile. 

"What? What was it, Mama?" Helen demanded eagerly. 

"Did you ever take a good look at that maple tree out front that stands 
on your right as you come in the house?" 

"Why, no," Helen said in a bewildered tone. "How do you mean?" 

"Well," said Eliza calmly, yet with a certain triumph in her voice, 
"you just take a good look at it tomorrow. That's all." 

"But why I can't see how do you mean, Mama?" 

"Now, child " Eliza pursued her subject deliberately, with a rumi- 
nant relish of her strong pursed lips "I was born and brought up in 
the country close to the lap of Mother Earth, as the sayin' goes and 
when it comes to trees why, I reckon there's mighty little about 'em 
that I don't know. . . . Now here," she said abruptly, coming to the 
centre of her argument "did you ever see a tree that had a big hollow 
gash down one side that looked like it had all been eaten an 1 rotted out 
by some disease that had been destroyin' it?" 

"Why, yes," Helen said, in a puzzled voice. "But I don't see yet " 

"Well, child, I'll tell you, then," said Eliza, both voice and worn brown 
eyes united in their portents of a grave and quiet earnestness "that 
tree doesn't always die! You'll see trees that have had that happen to 
them and they cure themselves! You can see where some old rotten 
growth has eaten into them and then you can see where the tree has 
got the best of it and grown up .again as sound and healthy as it 
ever was around that old rotten growth. And that," she said trium- 
phantly, "that is just exactly what has happened to that maple in the 
yard. Oh, you can see it!" she cried positively, at the same time making 
an easy descriptive gesture with her wide hand "you can see where it 
has lapped right around that old growth made a sort of fold, you 
know and here it is just as sound and healthy as it ever was!" 

"Then you mean ? " 

"I mean," said Eliza in her straight and deadly fashion "I mean that 
if a tree can do it, a man can do it and I mean that if any man alive 
could do it your daddy is that man for he's had as much strength and 
vitality as any man I ever saw and more than a tree!" she cried. "Lord! 
I've seen him do enough to kill a hundred trees the things he's done 
and managed to get over would kill the strongest tree that ever lived!" 

"Oh, but Mama, surely not!" said Helen, laughing, and beginning to 
pluck at her chin in an abstracted manner, amused ^ud tickled in spite of 


herself by her mother's extraordinary reasoning. "You know that a man 
is not built the same way as a tree!" 

"Why," Eliza cried impatiently, "why not! They're both Nature's 
products, aren't they? Now, here," she said persuasively, "just stop and 
consider the thing for a moment. Just imagine for a moment that you're 
the tree." Here she took her strong worn fingers and traced a line down 
Helen's stomach. "Now," she went on persuasively, "you've got some 
kind of growth inside you call it what you like a tumor, a growth, 
a cancer anything you will and your healthy tissues get to work to get 
the best of that growth to build up a wall around it to destroy it to 
replace it with sound tissues, weed it out! Now," she said, clenching 
her fingers in a loose but powerful clasp "if a tree can do that, doesn't 
it stand to reason that a man can do the same! Why, I wouldn't doubt 
it for a moment!" she cried powerfully. "Not a bit of it." 

Thus the two women talked together according to the laws of their 
nature the one with an invincible and undaunted optimism that 
persuaded itself in the octopal pursuit of its own reasonings, the other 
clutching like a drowning person at a straw. 


HE had not heard from any of his family in some weeks but late that 
night, while he was reading in his room on Trowbridge Street, he re- 
ceived the following telegram from home: "Father very ill doctor says 
cannot live come at once." The telegram was signed by his mother. 

He telephoned the railway information offices and was informed that 
there was a train for New York and the South in about an hour. If he 
hurried, he could make it. He did not have enough money for the fare, 
he knew that he might hunt up Starwick, Dodd, Professor Hatcher, or 
other people that he knew, and get the money, but the delay would 
make him miss the train. Accordingly, he appealed to the person he 
knew best in the house, and who would be, he thought, most likely to 
help him. This was Mr. Wang, the Chinese student. 

Mr. Wang was as good-hearted as he was stupid and childlike and 
now, faced with the need of getting money at once, the boy appealed 
to him. Mr. Wang came to his door and blinked owlishly; behind him 
the room was a blur of smoke and incense, and the big cabinet victrola 
was giving forth for the dozenth time that evening the hearty strains of 
"Yes, We Have No Bananas." 

When Mr. Wang saw him, his round yellow face broke into a fool- 


ish crease of merriment, he began to shake his finger at the young man 
waggishly, and his throat already beginning to choke and squeak a little 
with his jest, he said: 

"I s'ink lest night I see you with nice " Something in the other's 
manner cut him short; he stopped, his round foolish face grew wonder- 
ing and solemn, and in a doubtful and inquiring tone, he said: 

"You say ?" 

"Listen, Wang: I've just got this telegram from home. My father is 
very sick they think that he is dying. I've got to get money to go 
home at once. I need fifty dollars: can you let me have it?" 

As Mr. Wang listened, his sparkling eyes grew dull as balls of tar, his 
round yellow moon of face grew curiously impassive. When the boy 
had finished, the Chinese thrust his hands into the wide flowered sleeves 
of his dressing gown, and then with a curious formal stiffness said: 

"Will you come in? Please." 

The boy entered, and Mr. Wang, closing the door, turned, thrust his 
hand in his sleeves again, marched across the room to a magnificent 
teak-wood desk and opening a small drawer, took out a roll of bills, 
peeled off two twenties and a ten, and coming back to where his visitor 
was standing, presented the money to him with a still bow, and his 
round face still woodenly impassive, said again: 


The young man seized the money and saying, "Thank you, Wang, 
I'll send it to you as soon as I get home," ran back to his room and began 
to hurl clothing, shirts, socks, toilet articles, into his valise as hard as he 
could. He had just finished when there was a tapping on the door and 
the Chinese appeared again. He marched into the room with the same 
ceremonious formality that had characterized his former conduct and 
bowing stiffly again, presented the boy with two magnificent fans of 
peacock feathers of which the lacquered blades were delicately and 
beautifully engraved. 

And bowing stiffly again, and saying, "Please!" he turned and 
marched out of the room, his fat hands thrust into the wide sleeves of 
the flowered dressing gown. 

Thirty minutes later he was on his way, leaving behind him, in the 
care of Mrs. Murphy, most of his belongings the notebooks, letters, 
books, old shoes, worn-out clothes and battered hats, the thousands 
of pages of manuscript that represented the accretions of two years 
that immense and nondescript collection of past events, foredone accom- 


plishment, and spent purposes, the very sight of which filled him with 
weariness and horror but which, with the huge acquisitive mania of his 
mother's blood, he had never been able to destroy. 

In this way he left Cambridge and a life he had known for two 
years; instantly re-called, drawn back by the hand of death into the 
immediacy of a former life that had grown strange as dreams. It was 
toward the end of June, just a day or two before the commencement 
exercises at the university. That year he had been informed of his 
eligibility for the Master's degree a degree he had neither sought nor 
known he had earned and, at the time he had received the telegram, 
he had been waiting for the formal exercises at which he would receive 
the degree a wait prompted more by his total indecision as to his 
future purpose than by any other cause. Now, with explosive sudden* 
ness, his purpose had been shaped, decided for him, and with the old 
feeling of groping bewilderment, he surveyed the history of the last two 
years and wondered why he had come, why he was here, toward what 
blind goal he had been tending: all that he had to "show" for these years 
of fury, struggle, homelessness and hunger was an academic distinction 
which he had not aimed at, and on which he placed small value. 

And it was in this spirit that he left the place. Rain had begun to 
fall that night, it fell now in torrential floods. The gay buntings and 
Japanese lanterns with which the Harvard Yard were already decked 
were reduced to sodden ruin, and as he raced towards the station in a 
taxi, the streets of Cambridge, and the old, narrow, twisted and familiar 
lanes of Boston were deserted pools of wet light and glittering ribbons 
swept with storm. 

When he got to the South station he had five minutes left to buy his 
ticket and get on his train. In spite of the lashing storm and the lateness 
of the hour, that magnificent station, which at that time before the 
later "improvements" had reduced it to a glittering sterility of tile and 
marble was one of the most thrilling and beautiful places in the world, 
was still busy with the tides of people that hurry forever through the 
great stations of America, and that no violence of storm can check. 

The vast dingy sweep of the cement concourse outside the train-gates 
was pungent, as it had always been, with the acrid and powerfully ex- 
citing smell of engine smoke, and beyond the gates, upon a dozen tracks, 
great engines, passive and alert as cats, purred and panted softly, with 
the couched menace of their tremendous stroke. The engine smoke 


rose up straight in billowing plumes to widen under vaulting arches, to 
spread foggily throughout the enormous spaces of the grimy sheds. 
And beside the locomotives, he could see the burly denimed figures of 
the engineers, holding flaming torches and an oil-can in their hands as 
they peered and probed through the shining flanges of terrific pistoned 
wheels much taller than their heads. And forever, over the enormous 
cement concourse and down the quays beneath the powerful groomed 
attentiveness of waiting trains the tides of travellers kept passing, pass- 
ing, in their everlasting change and weft, of voyage and return of 
speed and space and movement, morning, cities, and new lands. 

And caught up in the vaulting arches of those immense and grimy 
4ieds he heard again the murmurous sound of time that sound remote 
and everlasting, distilled out of all the movement, frenzy, and unceasing 
fury of our unresting lives, and yet itself detached, as calm and im- 
perturbable as the still sad music of humanity, and which, made up 
out of our million passing lives, is in itself as fixed and everlasting as 

They came, they paused and wove and passed and thrust and van- 
ished in their everlasting tides, they streamed in and out of the portals 
of that enormous station in unceasing swarm; great trains steamed in to 
empty them, and others steamed out loaded with their nameless motes 
of lives, and all was as it had always been, moving, changing, swarm- 
ing on forever like a river, and as fixed, unutterable in unceasing move- 
ment and in changeless change as the great river is, and time itself. 

And within ten minutes he himself, another grain of dust borne on- 
ward on this ceaseless tide, another nameless atom in this everlasting 
throng, another wanderer in America, as all his fathers were before 
him, was being hurled into the South again in the huge projectile of a 
train. The train swept swiftly down the gleaming rails, paused briefly 
at the Back-Bay station, then was on its way again, moving smoothly, 
powerfully, almost noiselessly now, through the outer stretches of the 
small dense web of Boston. The town swept smoothly past : old blanks 
of wall, and old worn brick, and sudden spokes of streets, deserted, 
lashed with rain, set at the curbs with glittering beetles of its wet ma- 
chinery and empetalled with its wet and sudden blooms of life. The 
flushed spoke-wires crossed his vision, lost the moment that he saw them, 
his forever, gone, like all things else, and never to be captured, seen a 
million times, yet never known before as haunting, fading, deathless 
as a dream, as brief as is the bitter briefness of man's days, as lost 


and lonely as his life upon the mighty breast of earth, and of America 
Then the great train, gathering now in speed, and mounting smooth- 
ly to the summit of its tremendous stroke, was running swiftly through 
the outskirts of the city, through suburbs and brief blurs of light and 
then through little towns and on into the darkness, the wild and secret 
loneliness of earth. And he was going home again into the South and 
to a life that had grown strange as dreams, and to his father who was 
dying and who had become a ghost and shadow of his father to him, 
and to the bitter reality of grief and death. And how, why, for what 
reason he could not say all he felt was the tongueless swelling of wild 
joy. It was the wild and secret joy that has no tongue, the impossible 
hope that has no explanation, the savage, silent, and sweet exultancy 
of night, the wild and lonely visage of the earth, the imperturbable stroke 
and calmness of the everlasting earth, from which we have been de- 
rived, wherein again we shall be compacted, on which all of us have 
lived alone as strangers, and across which, in the loneliness of night, 
we have been hurled onward in the projectile flight of mighty trains 

Then the great train was given to the night and darkness, the great 
train hurtled through the night across the lonely, wild, and secret earth, 
bearing on to all their thousand destinations its freight of unknown 
lives some to morning, cities, new lands, and the joy of voyages, and 
some to known faces, voices, and the hills of home but which to cer- 
tain fortune, peace, security, and love, no man could say. 

The news that Gant was dying had spread rapidly through the town 
and, as often happens, that news had brought him back to life again in 
the heart and living memory of men who had known him, and who had 
scarcely thought of him for years. That night the night of his death 
the house was filled with some of the men who had known him best 
since he came to the town forty years before. 

Among these people were several of the prominent and wealthy busi- 
ness men of the community: these included, naturally, Eliza's brothers, 
William and James Pentland, both wealthy lumber dealers, as well as 
one of her younger brothers, Crockett, who was Will Pentland's book- 
keeper, a pleasant, ruddy, bucolic man of fifty years. Among the other 
men of wealth and influence who had been Gant's friends there was 
Fagg Sluder, who had made a fortune as a contractor and retired to in- 


vest his money in business property, and to spend his time seated in an 
easy creaking chair before the fire department, in incessant gossip about 
baseball with the firemen and the young professional baseball players 
whose chief support he was, whose annual deficit he cheerfully supplied, 
and to whom he had given the local baseball park, which bore his name. 
He had been one of Gant's best friends for twenty years, he was im- 
mensely fond of him, and now, assembled in the broad front hall in 
earnest discussion with the Pentlands and Mike Fogarty, another of 
Gant's friends, and armed with the invariable cigar (despite his doctor's 
orders he smoked thirty or forty strong black cigars every day), which he 
chewed on, took out of his mouth, and put back again, with quick, 
short, unconscious movements, he could be heard saying in the rapid, 
earnest, stammering tone that was one of the most attractive qualities of 
his buoyant and constantly hopeful nature: 

"I-I-I-I just believe he's going to pull right out of this and-and-and- 
get well! Why-why-why-why-when I went in there tonight he spoke 
right up and-and-and knew me right away!" he blurted out, sticking 
the cigar in his mouth and chewing on it vigorously a moment "why- 
why-why his mind is-is-is-is just as clear as it always was spoke 
right up, you know, says 'Sit down, Fagg' shook hands with me 
knew me right away talked to me just the same way he always talked 
says 'Sit down, Fagg. I'm glad to see you. How have you been?' he 
says and-and-and I just believe he's going to pull right out of this,'* 
Mr. Sluder blurted out, "be damned if I don't what do you say, 
Will?" and snatching his chewed cigar butt from his mouth he turned 
eagerly to Will Pentland for confirmation. And Will, who, as usual, 
had been paring his stubby nails during the whole course of the con- 
versation, his lips pursed in their characteristic family grimace, now 
studied his clenched fingers for a moment, pocketed his knife and turn- 
ing to Fagg Sluder, with a little bird-like nod and wink, and with the 
incomparable Pentland drawl, at once precise, and full of the relish of 
self-satisfaction, said : 

"Well, if any man alive can do it, W. O. is that man. I've seen him 
time and again when I thought every breath would be his last and he's 
got over it every time. I've always said," he went on precisely, and with 
a kind of deadly directness in his small compact and almost wizened 
face, "that he has more real vitality than any two men that I ever knew 
he's got out of worse holes than this before and he may do it again." 


He was silent a moment, his small packed face pursed suddenly in its 
animal-like grimace that had an almost savage ferocity and a sense of 
deadly and indomitable power. 

Even more astonishing and troubling was the presence of these four 
older members of the Pentland family gathered together in his moth' 
er's hall. As they stood there talking Eliza with her hands held in theii 
loose and powerful clasp across her waist, Will intently busy with his 
finger-nails, Jim listening attentively to all that was said, his solid porcine 
face and small eyes wincing from time to time in a powerful but uncon- 
scious grimace, and Crockett, gentlest, ruddiest, most easy-going and 
dreamy of them all, speaking in his quiet drawling tone and stroking 
his soft brown mustaches in a gesture of quiet and bucolic meditation, 
Luke could not recall having seen so many of them together at one time 
and the astonishing enigma of their one-ness and variety was strikingly 

What was it? this indefinable tribal similarity that united these 
people so unmistakably. No one could say: it would have been difficult 
to find four people more unlike in physical appearance, more strongly 
marked by individual qualities. Whatever it was whether some chem- 
istry of blood and character, or perhaps some physical identity of broad 
and fleshy nose, pursed reflective lips and flat wide cheeks, or the en- 
ergies of powerfully concentrated egotisms their kinship with onr 
another was astonishing and instantly apparent. 


IN a curious and indefinable way the two groups of men in the hallway 
had become divided: the wealthier group of prominent citizens, which 
was composed of the brothers William, James, and Crockett Pentland, 
Mr. Sluder and Eliza, stood in a group near the front hall door, engaged 
in earnest conversation. The second group, which was composed of 
working men, who had known Gant well, and worked for or with him 
a group composed of Jannadeau the jeweller, old Alec Ramsay and 
Saul Gudger, who were stonecutters, Gant's nephew, Ollie Gant, who 
was a plasterer, Ernest Pegram, the city plumber, and Mike Fogarty, 
who was perhaps Gant's closest friend, a building contractor this 
group, composed of men who had all their lives done stern labor 
with their hands, and who were really the men who had known the 
stone-cutter best, stood apart from the group of prominent and wealthy 
men who were talking so earnestly to Eliza. 


And in this circumstance, in this unconscious division, in the air of 
constraint, vague uneasiness and awkward silence that was evident 
among these working men, as they stood there in the hallway dressed 
in their "good clothes," nervously fingering their hats in their big 
hands, there was something immensely moving. The men had the 
look that working people the world over have always had when they 
found themselves suddenly gathered together on terms of social intimacy 
with their employers or with members of the governing class. 

And Helen, coming out at this instant from her father's room into 
the hall, suddenly saw and felt the awkward division between these 
two groups of men, as she had never before felt or noticed it, as sharply 
as if they had been divided with a knife. 

And, it must be admitted, her first feeling was an unworthy one 
an instinctive wish to approach the more "important" group, to join 
her life to the lives of these "influential" people who represented to her 
a "higher" social level. She found herself walking towards the group of 
wealthy and prominent men at the front of the hall, and away from the 
group of working men who had really been Gant's best friends. 

But seeing the brick-red face of Alec Ramsay, the mountainous 
figure of Mike Fogarty, suddenly with a sense of disbelief, and almost 
terrified revelation of the truth, she thought: "Why-why-why these 
men are really the closest friends he's got not rich men like Uncle Will 
or Uncle Jim or even Mr. Sluder but men like Mike Fogarty and 
Jannadeau and Mr. Duncan and Alec Ramsay and Ernest Peg- 
ram and Ollie Gant but but good heavens, no!" she thought, 
almost desperately "surely these are not his closest friends why-why 
of course, they're decent people they're honest men but they're 
only common people I've always considered them as just wording 
men and-and-and my God!" she thought, with that terrible feel- 
ing of discovery we have when we suddenly see ourselves as others 
see us "do you suppose that's the way people in this town think 
of Papa? Do you suppose they have always thought of him as just 
a common working man oh, no! but of course not!" she went on 
impatiently, trying to put the troubling thought out of her mind. 
"Papa's not a working man Papa is a business man a well thought 
of business man in this community. Papa has always owned prop- 
erty since he came here he has always had his own shop" she did 
not like the sound of the word shop, and in her min^ she hastily 
amended it to "place" "he's always had his own place, up on the public 


square he's he's rented places to other people he's he's oh, of 
course not! Papa is different from men like Ernest Pegram, and Ollie, 
and Jannadeau and Alec Ramsay why, they're just working men they 
work with their hands Ollie's just an ordinary plasterer and-and 
Mr. Ramsay is nothing but a stone-cutter.' 

And a small insistent voice inside her said most quietly: "And your 

And suddenly Helen remembered Gant's great hands of power and 
strength, and how they now lay quietly beside him on the bed, and 
lived and would not die, even when the rest of him had died, and she 
remembered the thousands of times she had gone to his shop in the after- 
noon and found the stonecutter in his long striped apron bending with 
delicate concentration over a stone inscription on a trestle, holding in his 
great hands the chisel and the heavy wooden mallet the stonecutters use, 
and remembering, the whole rich and living compact of the past came 
back to her, in a rush of tenderness and joy and terror, and on that 
flood a proud and bitter honesty returned. She thougrit: "Yes, he was a 
stonecutter, no different from these other men, and these men were his 
real friends." 

And going directly to old Alec Ramsay she grasped his blunt thick 
fingers, the nails of which were always whitened a little with stone 
dust, and greeted him in her large and spacious way: 

"Mr. Ramsay," she said, "I want you to know how glad we are that 
you could come. And that goes for all of you Mr. Jannadeau, and Mr. 
Duncan, and Mr. Fogarty, and you, Ernest, and you, too, Ollie you are 
the best friends Papa has, there's no one he thinks more of, and no one 
he would rather see." 

Mr. Ramsay's brick-red face and brick-red neck became even red- 
der before he spoke, and beneath his grizzled brows his blue eyes sud- 
denly were smoke blue. He put his blunt hand to his mustache for a 
moment, and tugged at it, then he said in his grufif, quiet, and matter- 
of-fact voice: 

"I guess we know Will about as well as any one, Miss Helen. I've 
worked for him off and on for thirty years." 

At the same moment, she heard Ollie Gant's easy, deep, and powerful 
laugh, and saw him slowly lift his cigarette in his coarse paw; she saw 
Jannadeau's great yellow face and massive domy brow, and heard him 
laugh with guttural pleasure, saying, "Ah-h! I tell you vat! Dat girl 
has alvays looked out for her datty she's de only vun dat coult hantle 


him; efer since she vas ten years olt it has been de same." And she was 
overwhelmingly conscious of that immeasurable mountain of a man, 
Mike Fogarty, beside her, the sweet clarity of his blue eyes, and the 
almost purring music of his voice as he gently laid his mutton of a hand 
upon her shoulder for a moment, saying, 

"Ah, Miss Helen, I don't know how Will could have got along all 
these years without ye for he has said the same himself a thousand 
times aye! that he has!" 

And instantly, having heard these words, and feeling the strong calm 
presences of these powerful men around her, it seemed to Helen she 
had somehow re-entered a magic world that she thought was gone for- 
ever. And she was immensely content. 

At the same moment, with a sense of wonder, she discovered an as- 
tonishing thing, that she had never noticed before, but that she must 
have heard a thousand times; this was that of all these people, who 
knew Gant best, and had a deep and true affection for him, there were 
only two Mr. Fogarty and Mr. Ramsay who had ever addressed him 
by his first name. And so far as she could now remember, these two 
men, together with Gant's mother, his brothers, his sister Augusta, and 
a few of the others who had known him in his boyhood in Penn- 
sylvania, were the only people who ever had. And this revelation 
cast a strange, a lonely and a troubling light upon the great gaunt figure 
of the stonecutter, which moved her powerfully and which she had 
never felt before. And most strange of all was the variety of names by 
which these various people called her father. 

As for Eliza, had any of her children ever heard her address her 
husband as anything but "Mr. Gant" had she ever called him by one 
of his first names their anguish of shame and impropriety would have 
been so great that they could hardly have endured it. But such a lapse 
would have been incredible: Eliza could no more have addressed Gant 
by his first name, than she could have quoted Homer's Greek; had 
she tried to address him so, the muscles of her tongue would have found 
it physically impossible to pronounce the word. And in this fact there 
was somehow, now that Gant was dying, an enormous pathos. It gave 
to Eliza's life with him a pitiable and moving dignity, the compensation 
of a proud and wounded spirit for all the insults and injuries that had 
been heaped upon it. She had been a young country woman of twenty- 
four when she had met him, she had been ignorant of life, and innocent 
of the cruelty, the violence, the drunkenness and abuse of which men 


are capable, she had borne this man fifteen children, of whom eight had 
come to life, and had for forty years eaten the bread of blood and tears 
and joy and grief and terror, she had wanted affection and had been 
given taunts, abuse, and curses, and somehow her proud and wounded 
spirit had endured with an anguished but unshaken fortitude all the 
wrongs and cruelties and injustices of which he had been guilty toward 
her. And now at the very end her pride still had this pitiable distinction, 
her spirit still preserved this last integrity: she had not betrayed her 
wounded soul to a shameful familiarity, he had remained to her in 
mind and heart and living word what he had been from the first day 
that she met him; the author of her grief and misery, the agent of her 
suffering, the gaunt and lonely stranger who had come into her hills 
from a strange land and a distant people that furious, gaunt, and 
lonely stranger with whom by fatal accident her destiny past hate or 
love or birth or death or human error and confusion had been in- 
solubly enmeshed, with whom for forty years she had lived, a wife, a 
mother, and a stranger and who would to the end remain to her a 
stranger "Mr. Gant." 

What was it ? What was the secret of this strange and bitter mystery 
jf life that had made of Gant a stranger to all men, and most of all a 
stranger to his wife? Perhaps some of the answer might have been 
round in Eliza's own unconscious words when she described her meet- 
ing with him forty years before : 

"It was not that he was old," she said, "he was only thirty-three but 
he looked old his ways were old he had lived so much among old peo- 
ple. Pshaw!" she continued, with a little puckered smile, "if any one 
had told me that night I saw him sitting there with Lydia and old Mrs. 
Mason that was the very day they moved into the house, the night he 
gave the big dinner and Lydia was still alive and, of course, she was 
ten years older than he was, and that may have had something to do with 
it but I got to studying him as he sat there, of course, he was tired and 
run down and depressed and worried over all that trouble that he'd had 
in Sidney before he came up here, when he lost everything, and he 
knew that Lydia was dying, and that was preyin' on his mind but he 
looked old, thin as a rake you know, and sallow and run down, and 
with those old ways he had acquired, I reckon, from associatin' with 
Lydia and old Mrs. Mason and people like that but I just sat there 
studying him as he sat there with them and I said 'Well, you're an old 
man, aren't you, sure enough?' pshaw! if any one bad told me *hat 


night that some day I'd be married to him I'd have laughed at 
I'd have considered that I was marrying an old man and that's just 
exactly what a lot of people thought, sir, when the news got out that I 
was goin' to marry him I know Martha Patton came running to me, 
all excited and out of breath said, 'Eliza! You're not going to marry 
that old man you know you're not!' you see, his ways were old, he 
looked old, dressed old, acted old everything he did was old; there was 
always, it seemed, something strange and old-like about him, almost 
like he had been born that way." 

And it was at this time that Eliza met him, saw him first "Mr. Gant" 
an immensely tall, gaunt, cadaverous-looking man, with a face stern 
and sad with care, lank, drooping mustaches, sandy hair, and cold-gray 
staring eyes "not so old, you know he was only thirty-three but he 
looked old, he acted old, his ways were old he had lived so much 
among older people he seemed older than he was I thought of him as 
an old man." 

This, then, was "Mr. Gant" at thirty-three, and since then, although 
his fortunes and position had improved, his character had changed lit- 
tle. And now Helen, faced by all these working men, who had known. 
liked, and respected him, and had now come to see him again before he 
died suddenly knew the reason for his loneliness, the reason so fevj 
people least of all, his wife had ever dared address him by his first 
name. And with a swift and piercing revelation, his muttered words, 
which she had heard him use a thousand times when speaking of his 
childhood "We had a tough time of it I tell you what, we did!" 
now came back to her with the unutterable poignancy of discovery. For 
the first time she understood what they meant. And suddenly, with the 
same swift and nameless pity, she remembered all the pictures which 
she had seen of her father as a boy and a young man. There were a half 
dozen of them in the big family album, together with pictures of his 
own and Eliza's family : they were the small daguerreotypes of fifty years 
before, in small frames of faded plush, with glass covers, touched with 
the faint pale pinks with which the photographers of an earlier time 
tried to paint with life the sallow hues of their photography. The first 
of these pictures showed Gant as a little boy; later, a boy of twelve, he 
was standing in a chair beside his brother Wesley, who was seated, with 
a wooden smile upon his face. Later, a picture of Gant in the years in 
Baltimore, standing, his feet crossed, leaning elegantly upon a marble 
slab beside a vase; later still, the young stonecutter before his little shop 


in the years at Sidney; finally, Gant, after his marriage with Eliza, stand- 
ing with gaunt face and lank drooping mustaches before his shop upon 
the square, in the company of Will Pentland, who was at the time his 
business partner. 

And all these pictures, from first to last, from the little boy to the 
man with the lank drooping mustaches, had been marked by the 
same expression : the sharp thin face was always stern and sad with care, 
the shallow cold-gray eyes always stared out of the bony cage-formation 
of the skull with a cold mournfulness the whole impression was al- 
ways one of gaunt sad loneliness. And it was not the loneliness of the 
dreamer, the poet, or the misjudged prophet, it was just the cold and 
terrible loneliness of man, of every man, and of the lost American who 
has been brought forth naked under immense and lonely skies, to "shift 
for himself," to grope his way blindly through the confusion and brutal 
chaos of a life as naked and unsure as he, to wander blindly down across 
the continent, to hunt forever for a goal, a wall, a dwelling place of 
warmth and certitude, a light, a door. 

And for this reason, she now understood something about her father, 
this great gaunt figure of a stonecutter that she had never understood or 
thought about before: she suddenly understood his order, sense of de- 
cency and dispatch; his love of cleanness, roaring fires, and rich abun- 
dance, his foul drunkenness, violence, and howling fury, his naked 
shame and trembling penitence, his good clothes of heavy monumental 
black that he always kept well pressed, his clean boiled shirts, wing col- 
lars, and his love of hotels, ships, and trains, his love of gardens, new 
lands, cities, voyages. She knew suddenly that he was unlike any other 
man that ever lived, and that every man that ever lived was like her 
father. And remembering the cold and mournful look in his shallow 
staring eyes of cold hard gray, she suddenly knew the reason for that 
look, as she had never known it before, and understood now why so few 
men had ever called him by his first name why he was known to all 
the world as "Mr. Gant." 

Having joined this group of working men, Helen immediately felt 
an indefinable but powerful sense of comfort and physical well-being 
which the presence of such men as these always gave to her. And she 
did not know why; but immediately, once she had grasped Mr. Ramsay 
by the hand, and was aware of Mike Fogarty's mountainous form and 
clear-blue eye above her, and Ollie Gant's deep and lazy laugh, ajid the 


deliberate and sensual languor with which he raised his cigarette to his 
lips with his powerful plasterer's hand, drawing the smoke deep into 
his strong lungs and letting it trickle slowly from his nostrils as he talked 
she was conscious of a feeling of enormous security and relief which 
she had not known in years. 

And this feeling, as with every person of strong sensuous perceptions, 
was literal, physical, chemical, astoundingly acute. She not only felt 
an enormous relief and joy to get back to these working people, it 
even seemed to her that everything they did the way Mr. Duncan held 
his strong cheap cigar in his thick dry fingers, the immense satisfaction 
with which he drew on it, the languid and sensual trickling of cigarette 
smoke from Ollie Gant's nostrils, his deep, good-natured, indolently 
lazy laugh, even the perceptible bulge of tobacco-quid in Alec Ram- 
say's brick-red face, his barely perceptible rumination of it all these 
things, though manlike in their nature, seemed wonderfully good and 
frssh and living to her the whole plain priceless glory of the earth re- 
stored to her and gave her a feeling of wonderful happiness and joy. 

And later that night when all these men, her father's friends, had 
gone into his room, filling it with their enormous and full-blooded 
vitality, as she saw him lying there, wax-pale, bloodless, motionless, yet 
with a faint grin at the edge of his thin mouth as he received them, as 
she heard their deep full-fibred voices, Mike Fogarty's lilting Irish, Mr. 
Duncan's thick Scotch burr, Ollie Gant's deep and lazy laugh, and the 
humor of Alec Ramsay's deep, gruff and matter-of-fact tone, relating 
old times "God, Will!" he said, "at your worst, you weren't in it com- 
pared to Wes! He was a holy terror when he drank! Do you remem- 
ber the day he drove his fist through your plate-glass window right in 
the face of Jannadeau and went home then and tore all the plumbing 
out of the house and pitched the bathtub out of the second-storey win- 
dow into Orchard Street God! Will! you weren't in it compared to 
Wes" as she heard all this, and saw Gant's thin grin and heard his 
faint and rusty cackle, his almost inaudible "E'God! Poor Wes!" she 
could not believe that he was going to die, the great full-blooded 
working men filled the room with the vitality of a life which had re- 
turned in all its rich and living flood, and seemed intolerably near and 
familiar and she kept thinking with a feeling of wonderful happiness 
and disbelief: "Oh, but Papa's not going to die! It's not possible! He 
can't! He can't!" 



THE dying man himself was no longer to be fooled and duped by 
hope; he knew that he was done for, and he no longer cared. Rather, 
as if that knowledge had brought him a new strength the immense 
and measureless strength that comes from resignation, and that has 
vanquished terror and despair Gant had already consigned himself to 
death, and now was waiting for it, without weariness or anxiety, and 
with a perfect and peaceful acquiescence. 

This complete resignation and tranquillity of a man whose life had 
been so full of violence, protest, and howling fury stunned and silenced 
them, and left them helpless. It seemed that Gant, knowing that often 
he had lived badly, was now determined to die well. And in this he 
succeeded. He accepted every ministration, every visit, every stammer- 
ing reassurance, or frenzied activity, with a passive gratefulness which 
he seemed to want every one to know. On the evening of the day after 
his first hemorrhage, he asked for food and Eliza, bustling out, pathet- 
ically eager to do something, killed a chicken and cooked it for him. 

And as if, from that infinite depth of death and silence from which 
he looked at her, he had seen, behind the bridling brisk activity of her 
figure, forever bustling back and forth, saying confusedly "Why, 
yes! The very thing! This very minute, sir!" had seen the white 
strained face, the stricken eyes of a proud and sensitive woman who had 
wanted affection all her life, had received for the most part injury and 
abuse, and who was ready to clutch at any crust of comfort that might 
console or justify her before he died he ate part of the chicken with 
relish, and then looking up at her, said quietly : 

"I tell you what that was a good chicken." 

And Helen, who had been sitting beside him on the bed, and feeding 
him, now cried out in a tone of bantering and good-humored chal- 

lenge : 

"What! Is it better than the ones 7 cook for you! You'd better not 
say it is I'll beat you if you do." 

And Gant, grinning feebly, shook his head, and answered: 

"Ah-h! Your mother is a good cook, Helen. You're a good cook,. 
too but there's no one else can cook a chicken like your mother!" 

And stretching out his great right hand, he patted Eliza's worn fing' 
ers with his own. 

And Eliza, suddenly touched by that word of unaccustomed praise 


and tenderness, turned and rushed blindly from the room at a clumsy 
bridling gait, clasping her hands together at che wrist, her weak eyes 
blind with tears shaking her head in a strong convulsive movement, 
her mouth smiling a pale tremulous smile, ludicrous, touching, made un- 
natural by her false teeth, whispering over and over to herself, "Poor 
fellow! Says, 'There's no one else can cook a chicken like your mother.' 
Reached out and patted me on the hand, you know. Says 'I tell you what, 
there's no one who can cook a chicken like your mother.' I reckon he 
wanted to let me know, to tell me, but says, 'The rest of you have all 
been good to me, Helen's a good cook, but there's no one else can cook 
like your mother.' " 

"Oh, here, here, here," said Helen, who, laughing uncertainly had 
followed her mother from the room when. Eliza had rushed out, and 
had seized her by the arms, and shook her gently, "good heavens! Here! 
You mustn't carry on like this! You mustn't take it this way! Why, 
he's all right!" she cried out heartily and shook Eliza again. "Papa's 
going to be all right! Why, what are you crying for?" she laughed. 
"He's going to get well now don't you know that?" 

And Eliza could say nothing for a moment but kept smiling that 
false trembling and unnatural smile, shaking her head in a slight con- 
vulsive movement, her eyes blind with tears. 

"I tell you what," she whispered, smiling tremulously again and 
shaking her head, "there was something about it you know, the way he 
said it says, 'There's no one who can come up to your mother' there 
was something in the way he said it! Poor fellow, says, 'None of the rest 
of you can cook like her' says, 'I tell you what, that was certainly a 
good chicken' Poor fellow! It wasn't so much what he said as the 
way he said it there was something about it that went through me 
like a knife I tell you what it did!" 

"Oh, here, here, here!" Helen cried again, laughing. But her own 
eyes were also wet, the bitter possessiveness that had dominated all her 
relations with her father, and that had thrust Eliza away from him, xvas 
suddenly vanquished. At that moment she began to feel an affection for 
her mother that she had never felt before, a deep and nameless pity 
and regret, and a sense of sombre satisfaction. 

"Well," she thought, "I guess it's all she's had, but I'm glad she's got 
that much to remember. I'm glad he said it: she'll always have that now 
to hang on to." 

And Gant lay looking up from that sunken depth of death and silence, 


his great hands of living power quiet with their immense and passive 
strength beside him on the bed. 


TOWARDS one o'clock that night Gant fell asleep and dreamed that he 
was walking down the road that led to Spangler's Run. And although 
he had not been along that road for fifty years everything was as fresh, as 
green, as living and familiar as it had ever been to him. He came out 
on the road from Schaefer's farm, and on his left he passed by the little 
white frame church of the United Brethren, and the graveyard about 
the church where his friends and family had been buried. From the road 
he could see the line of family gravestones which he himself had carved 
and set up after he had returned from serving his apprenticeship in 
Baltimore. The stones were all alike: tall flat slabs of marble with plain 
rounded tops, and there was one for his sister Susan, who had died in in- 
fancy, and one for his sister Huldah, who had died in childbirth while 
the war was on, and one for Huldah's husband, a young-farmer named 
Jake Lentz who had been killed at Chancellorsville, and one for the 
husband of his oldest sister, Augusta, a man named Martin, who had 
been an itinerant photographer and had died soon after the war, and 
finally one for Gant's own father. And since there were no stones for 
his brother George or for Elmer or for John, and none for his mother or 
Augusta, Gant knew that he was still a young man, and had just re- 
cently come home. The stones which he had put up were still white 
and new, and in the lower right hand corner of each stone, he had 
carved his own name: W. O. Gant. 

It was a fine morning in early May and everything was sweet and 
green and as familiar as it had always been. The graveyard was 
carpeted with thick green grass, and all around the graveyard and the 
church there was the incomparable green velvet of young wheat. And 
the thought came back to Gant, as it had come to him a thousand times, 
that the wheat around the graveyard looked greener and richer than any 
other wheat that he had ever seen. And beside him on his right were 
{he great fields of the Schaefer farm, some richly carpeted with young 
green wheat, and some ploughed, showing great bronze-red strips of 
fertile nobly swelling earth. And behind him on the great swell of the 
land, and commanding that sweet and casual scene with the majesty 
of its incomparable lay was Jacob Schaefer's great red barn and to the 


fight the neat brick house with the white trimming of its windows, the 
white picket fence, the green yard with its rich tapestry of flowers and 
lilac bushes and the massed leafy spread of its big maple trees. And 
behind the house the hill rose, and all its woods were just greening into 
May, still smoky, tender and unfledged, gold-yellow with the magic of 
young green. And before the woods began there was the apple orchard 
halfway up the hill; the trees were heavy with the blossoms and stood 
there in all their dense still bloom incredible. 

And from the greening trees the bird-song rose, the grass was thick 
with the dense gold glory of the dandelions, and all about him were a 
thousand magic things that came and went and never could be captured. 
Below the church, he passed the old frame house where Elly Spangler, 
who kept the church keys, lived, and there were apple trees behind the 
house, all dense with bloom, but the house was rickety, unpainted and 
dilapidated as it had always been, and he wondered if the kitchen was 
still buzzing with a million flies, and if Elly's half-wit brothers, Jim and 
Willy, were inside. And even as he shook his head and thought, as he 
had thought so many times "Poor Elly," the back door opened and 
Willy Spangler, a man past thirty wearing overalls, and with a fond, 
foolish witless face, came galloping down across the yard toward him, 
flinging his arms out in exuberant greeting, and shouting to him the 
same welcome that he shouted out to every one who passed, friends and 
strangers all alike "I've been lookin' fer ye! I've been lookin' fer ye, 
OH," using, as was the custom of the friends and kinsmen of his Penn- 
sylvania boyhood, his second name and then, anxiously, pleadingly, 
again the same words that he spoke to every one: "Ain't ye goin' to 

And Gant, grinning, but touched by the indefinable sadness and pity 
which that kind and witless greeting had always stirred in him since his 
own childhood, shook his head, and said quietly : 

"No, Willy. Not to-day. I'm meeting some one down the road" and 
straightway felt, with thudding heart, a powerful and nameless ex- 
citement, the urgency of that impending meeting why, where, with 
whom, he did not know but all-compelling now, inevitable. 

And Willy, still with wondering, foolish, kindly face followed along 
beside him now, saying eagerly, as he said to every one : 

"Did ye bring anythin' fer me? Have ye got a chew?" 

And Gant, starting to shake his head in refusal, stopped suddenly, 
seeing the look of disappointment on the idiot's face, and putting his 


hand in the pocket of his coat, took out a plug of apple-tobacco, saying: 

"Yes. Here you are, Willy. You can have this." 

And Willy, grinning with foolish joy, had clutched the plug of to- 
bacco and, still kind and foolish, had followed on a few steps more, 
saying anxiously : 

"Are ye comin' back, Oil ? Will ye be comin' back real soon ?" 

And Gant, feeling a strange and nameless sorrow, answered : 

"I don't know, Willy" for suddenly he saw that he might never 
come this way again. 

But Willy, still happy, foolish, and contented, had turned and gal- 
loped away toward the house, flinging his arms out and shouting as he 

"I'll be waitin' fer ye. I'll be waitin' f er ye, Oil." 

And Gant went on then, down the road, and there was a nameless 
sorrow in him that he could not understand, and some of the brightness 
had gone out of the day. 

When he got to the mill, he turned left along the road that went down 
by Spangler's run, crossed by the bridge below, and turned from the 
road into the wood-path on the other side. A child was standing in the 
path, and turned and went on ahead of him. In the wood the sunlight 
.made swarming moths of light across the path, and through the leafy 
tangle of the trees : the sunlight kept shifting and swarming on the child's 
gold hair, and all around him were the sudden noises of the wood, the 
stir, the rustle, and the bullet thrum of wings, the cool broken sound of 
hidden water. 

The wood got denser, darker as he went on and coming to a place 
where the path split away into two forks, Gant stopped, and turning to 
the child said, "Which one shall I take?" And the child did not answer 

But some one was there in the wood before him. He heard footsteps 
on the path, and saw a footprint in the earth, and turning took the path 
where the footprint was, and where it seemed he could hear some one 

And then, with the bridgeless instancy of dreams, it seemed to him that 
all of the bright green-gold around him in the wood grew dark and 
sombre, the path grew darker, and suddenly he was walking in a strange 
and gloomy forest, haunted by the brown and trade light of dreams. 

feM^f f, f _ ^J C-) 

The forest shapes of great trees rose around him, he could hear no 
bird-song now, even his own feet on the path were soundless, but he 


always thought he heard the sound of some one walking in the wood 
before him. He stopped and listened: the steps were muffled, softly 
thunderous, they seemed so near that he thought that he must catch up 
with the one he followed in another second, and then they seemed im- 
mensely far away, receding in the dark mystery of that gloomy wood. 
And again he stopped and listened, the footsteps faded, vanished, he 
shouted, no one answered. And suddenly he knew that he had taken 
the wrong path, that he was lost. And in his heart there was an immense 
and quiet sadness, and the dark light of the enormous wood was all 
around him; no birds sang. 


GANT awoke suddenly and found himself looking straight up at Eliza 
who was seated in a chair beside the bed. 

"You were asleep," she said quietly with a grave smile, looking at 
him in her direct and almost accusing fashion. 

"Yes," he said, breathing a little hoarsely, "what time is it?" 

It was a few minutes before three o'clock in the morning. She looked 
at the clock and told him the time: he asked where Helen was. 

"Why," said Eliza quickly, "she's right here in this hall room : I reckon 
she's asleep, too. Said she was tired, you know, but that if you woke up 
and needed her to call her. Do you want me to get her?" 

"No," said Gant. "Don't bother her. I guess she needs the rest, poor 
child. Let her sleep." 

"Yes," said Eliza, nodding, "and that's exactly what you must do, too, 
Mr. Gant. You try to go on back to sleep now," she said coaxingly, "for 
that's what we all need. There's no medicine like sleep as the fellow 
says, it's Nature's sovereign remedy," said Eliza, with that form of 
sententiousness that she was very fond of "so you go on, now, Mr. 
Gant, and get a good night's sleep, and when you wake up in the morn- 
ing, you'll feel like a new man. That's half the battle if you can get 
your sleep, you're already on the road to recovery." 

"No," said Gant, "I've slept enough." 

He was breathing rather hoarsely and heavily and she asked him if 
he was comfortable and needed anything. He made no answer for a 
moment, and then muttered something under his breath that she could 
not hear plainly, but that sounded like "little boy." 

"Hah? What say? What is it, Mr. Gant?" Eliza said. "Little boy?" 
she said sharply, as he did not answer. 


"Did you see him?" he said. 

She looked at him for a moment with troubled eyes, then said: 

"Pshaw, Mr. Gant, I guess you must have been dreaming." 

He did not answer, and for a moment there was no sound in the room 
but his breathing, hoarse, a little heavy. Then he muttered: 

"Did some one come into the house?" 

She looked at him sharply, inquiringly again, with troubled eyes: 

"Hah? What say? Why, no, I think not," she said doubtfully, "un- 
less you may have heard Gilmer come in an' go up to his room." 

And Gant was again silent for several moments, breathing a little 
heavily and hoarsely, his hands resting with an enormous passive 
strength, upon the bed. Presently he said quietly: 

"Where's Bacchus?" 

"Hah? Who's that?" Eliza said sharply, in a startled kind of tone. 
"Bacchus? You mean Uncle Bacchus?" 

"Yes," said Gant. 

"Why, pshaw, Mr. Gant!" cried Eliza laughing for a startled mo- 
ment she had wondered if "his mind was wanderin'," but one glance at 
his quiet eyes, the tranquil sanity of his quiet tone, reassured her 

"Pshaw!" she said, putting one finger up to her broad nose-wing and 
laughing slyly. "You must have been havin' queer dreams, for a fact!" 

"Is he here?" 

"Why, I'll vow, Mr. Gant!" she cried again. "What on earth is in your 
mind ? You know that Uncle Bacchus is way out West in Oregon it's 
been ten years since he came back home last that summer of the re- 
union at Gettysburg." 

"Yes," said Gant. "I remember now." 

And again he fell silent, staring upward in the semi-darkness, his 
hands quietly at rest beside him, breathing a little hoarsely, but without 
pain. Eliza sat in the chair watching him, her hands clasped loosely at 
her waist, her lips pursed reflectively, and a puzzled look in her eyes: 
"Now I wonder what ever put that in his mind?" she thought. "I won- 
der what made him think of Bacchus. Now his mind's not wanderin' 
that's one thing sure. He knows what he's doing just as well as I do 
I reckon he must have dreamed it that Bacchus was here but that's 
certainly a strange thing, that he should bring it up like this." 

He was so silent that she thought he might have gone to sleep again, 
he lay motionless with his eyes turned upward in the semi-darkness of 


the room, his hands immense and passive at his side. But suddenly he 
startled her again by speaking, a voice so quiet and low that he might 
have been talking to himself. 

"Father died the year before the war," he said, "when I was nine years 
old. I never got to know him very well. I guess Mother had a hard time 
of it. There were seven of us and nothing but that little place to live 
on and some of us too young to help her much and George away at 
war. She spoke pretty hard to us sometimes but I guess she had a hard 
time of it. It was a tough time for all of us," he muttered, "I tell you 
what, it was." 

"Yes," Eliza said, "I guess it was. I know she told me I talked to 
her, you know, the time we went there on our honeymoon whew! 
what about it?" she shrieked faintly, and put her finger up to her broad 
nose-wing with the same sly gesture "it was all I could do to keep a 
straight face sometimes why, you know, the way she had of talkin' 
the expressions she used oh! came right out with it, you know some- 
times I'd have to turn my head away so she wouldn't see me laughin' 
says, you know, 1 was left a widow with seven children to bring up, but 
I never took charity from no one; as I told 'em all, I've crawled under 
the dog's belly all my life; now I guess I can get over its back.' " 

"Yes," said Gant with a faint grin. "Many's the time I've heard her 
say that." 

"But she told it then, you know," Eliza went on in explanatory fash- 
ion, "about your father and how he'd done hard labor on a farm all his 
life and died well, I reckon you'd call it consumption." 

"Yes," said Gant. "That was it." 

"And," Eliza said reflectively, "I never asked of course, I didn't want 
to embarrass her but I reckon from what she said, he may have been 
well, I suppose you might say he was a drinkin' man." 

"Yes," said Gant, "I guess he was." 

"And I know she told it on him," said Eliza, laughing again, and 
passing one finger slyly at the corner of her broad nose-wing, "how he 
went to town that time to Brant's Mill, I guess it was and how she 
was afraid he'd get to drinkin', and she sent you and Wes along to watch 
him and to see he got home again and how he met up with some fellers 
there and, sure enough, I guess he started drinkin' and stayed away too 
long and then, I reckon he was afraid of what she'd say to him when 
he got back and that was when he bought the clock it's that very clock 


upon the mantel, Mr. Gant but that was when he got the clock, all 
right I guess he thought it would pacify her when she started out to 
scold him for gettin' drunk and bein' late." 

"Yes," said Gant, who had listened without moving, staring at the 
ceiling, and with a faint grin printed at the corners of his mouth, "well 
do I remember: that was it, all right." 

"And then," Eliza went on, "he lost the way comin' home it had 
been snowin', and I reckon it was getting dark, and he had been drinkin' 
and instead of turnin' in on the road that went down by your place he 
kept goin' on until he passed Jake Schaefer's farm an' I guess Wes and 
you, poor child, kept follerin' where he led, thinkin' it was all right and 
when he realized his mistake he said he was tired an' had to rest a while 
and I'll vow! to think he'd go and do a thing like that," said Eliza, 
laughing again "he lay right down in the snow, sir, with the clock 
beside him and went sound to sleep." 
"Yes," said Gant, "and the clock was broken." 
"Yes," Eliza said, "she told me about that too and how she heard 
you all come creepin' in real quiet an' casy-like about nine o'clock that 
night, when she and all the children were in bed an' how she could 
kar him whispcrin' to you and Wes to be quiet an' how she heard 
you all come creepin' up the steps and how he came tip-toein' in real 
easy-like an' laid the clock down on the bed I reckon the glass had been 
broken out of it hopin' she'd see it when she woke up in the morning 

an' wouldn't scold him then for stayin' out " 

"Yes," said Gant, still with the faint attentive grin, "and then the 
clock began to strike." 

"Whew-w!" cried Eliza, putting her finger underneath her broad 
nose-wing "I know she had to laugh about it when she told it to me 
she said that all of you looked so sheepish when the clock began to 
strike that she didn't have the heart to scold him." 

And Gant, grinning faintly again, emitted a faint rusty cackle that 
sounded like "E'God!" and said: "Yes, that was it. Poor fellow." 

"But to think,'.' Eliza went on, "that he would have no more sense 
than to do a thing like that to lay right down there in the snow an' go 
to sleep with you two children watchin' him. And I know how she told 
it, how she questioned you and Wes next day, and I reckon started in 
to scold you for not takin' better care of him, and how you told her, 
'Well, Mother, I thought that it would be all right. I kept steppin' where 
he stepped, I thought he knew the way.' And said she didn't have tbi 


heart to scold you after that poor child, I reckon you were only eight 
or nine years old, and boy-like thought you'd follow in your father's foot- 
steps and that everything would be all right." 

"Yes," said Gant, with the faint grin again, "I kept stretchin' my legs to 
put my feet down in his tracks it was all I could do to keep up with 
him. . . . Ah, Lord," he said, and in a moment said in a faint low voice, 
"how well I can remember it. That was just the winter before he died." 

"And you've had that old clock ever since," Eliza said. "That very 
clock upon the mantel, sir at least, you've had it ever since I've known 
you, and I reckon you had it long before that for I know you told me 
how you brought it South with you. And that clock must be all of sixty 
or seventy years old if it's a day." 

"Yes," said Gant, "it's all of that." 

And again he was silent, and lay so still and motionless that there was 
no sound in the room except his faint and labored breathing, the languid 
stir of the curtains in the cool night breeze, and the punctual locking of 
the old wooden clock. And presently, when she thought that he might 
have gone of to sleep again, he spoke, in the same remote and detached 
voice as before: 

"Eliza," he said and at the sound of that unaccustomed word, a 
name he had spoken only twice in forty years her white face and her 
worn brown eyes turned toward him with the quick and startled look 
of an animal "Eliza," he said quietly, "you have had a hard life with 
me, a hard time. I want to tell you that I'm sorry." 

And before she could move from her white stillness of shocked sur- 
prise, he lifted his great right hand and put it gently down across her 
own. And for a moment she sat there bolt upright, shaken, frozen, with 
a look of terror in her eyes, her heart drained of blood, a pale smile 
trembling uncertainly and foolishly on her lips. Then she tried to 
withdraw her hand with a clumsy movement, she began to stammer 
with an air of ludicrous embarrassment, she bridled, saying "Aw-w, 
now, Mr. Gant. Well, now, I reckon," and suddenly these few simple 
words of regret and affection did what all the violence, abuse, drunken- 
ness and injury of forty years had failed to do. She wrenched her hand 
free like a wounded creature, her face was suddenly contorted by that 
grotesque and pitiable grimace of sorrow that women have had in 
moments of grief since the beginning of time, and digging her fist into 
her closed eye quickly with the pathetic gesture of a child, she lowered 
her head and wept bitterly: 


"It was a hard time, Mr. Gant," she whispered, "a hard time, sure 
enough. ... It wasn't all the cursin' and the drinkin' I got used to 
that. ... I reckon I was only an ignorant sort of girl when I met you 
and I guess," she went on with a pathetic and unconscious humor, "I 
didn't know what married life was like . . . but I could have stood the 
rest of it ... the bad names an' all the things you called me when I was 
goin' to have another child . . . but it was what you said when Grover 
died . . . accusin' me of bein' responsible for his death because I took 
the children to St. Louis to the Fair " and at the words as if an old 
and lacerated wound had been re-opened raw and bleeding, she wept 
hoarsely, harshly, bitterly "that was the worst time that I had some- 
times I prayed to God that I would not wake up he was a fine boy, Mr. 
Gant, the best I had like the write-up in the paper said he had the 
sense an' judgment of one twice his age ... an' somehow it had grown 
a part of me, I expected him to lead the others when he died it seemed 
like everything was gone ... an' then to have you say that I had " her 
voice faltered to a whisper, stopped: with a pathetic gesture she wiped 
the sleeve of her old frayed sweater across her eyes and already ashamed 
of her tears, said hastily: 

"Not that I'm blamin' you, Mr. Gant. ... I reckon we were both at 
fault ... we were both to blame ... if I had it to do all over I know 
I could do better . . . but I was so young and ignorant when I met you, 
Mr. Gant . . . knew nothing of the world . . . there was always some- 
thing strange-like about you that I didn't understand." 

Then, as he said nothing, but lay still and passive, looking at the ceil- 
ing, she said quickly, drying her eyes and speaking with a brisk and 
instant cheerfulness, the undaunted optimism of her ever-hopeful na- 

"Well, now, Mr. Gant, that's all over, and the best thing we can do is 
to forget about it. ... We've both made our mistakes we wouldn't be 
human if we didn't but now we've got to profit by experience the 
worst of all this trouble is all over you've got to think of getting well 
now, that's the only thing you've got to do, sir," she said pursing her 
lips and winking briskly at him "just set your mind on getting well 
that's all you've got to do now, Mr. Gant and the battle is half won. 
For half our ills and troubles are all imagination," she said sententiously, 
"and if you'll just make up your mind now that you're going to get 
well why, sir, you'll do it," and she looked at him with a brisk nod. 
we've both got years before us, Mr. Gant for all we know, the 


best years of our life are still ahead of us so we'll both go on and profit 
by the mistakes of the past and make the most of what time's left," she 
said. "That's just exactly what we'll do!" 

And quietly, kmdly, without moving, and with the impassive and 
limitless regret of a man who knows that there is no return, he answered: 

"Yes, Eliza. That is what we'll do." 

"And now," she went on coaxingly, "why don't you go on back to 
sleep now, Mr. Gant? There's nothin' like sleep to restore a man to 
health as the feller says, it's Nature's sovereign remedy, worth all the 
doctors and all the medicine on earth," she winked at him, and then 
concluded on a note of cheerful finality, "so you go on and get some 
sleep now, and tomorrow you will feel like a new man." 

And again he shook his head in an almost imperceptible gesture of 
negation : 

"No," he said, "not now. Can't sleep." 

He was silent again, and presently, his breath coming somewhat 
hoarse and labored, he cleared his throat, and put one hand up to his 
throat, as if to relieve himself of some impediment. 

Eliza looked at him with troubled eyes and said: 

"What's the matter, Mr. Gant? There's nothing hurtin' you?" 

"No," he said. "Just something in my throat. Could I have some 

"Why, yes, sir! That's the very thing!" She got up hastily, and looking 
about in a somewhat confused manner, saw behind her a pitcher of 
water and a glass upon his old walnut bureau, and saying "This very 
minute, sir!" started across the room. 

And at the same moment, Gant was aware that some one had 
entered the house, was coming towards him through the hall, would 
soon be with him. Turning his head towards the door he was conscious 
of something approaching with the speed of light, the instancy of 
thought, and at that moment he was filled with a sense of inexpressible 
joy, a feeling of triumph and security he had never known. Something 
immensely bright and beautiful was converging in a flare of light, and 
at that instant, the whole room blurred around him, his sight was fixed 
upon that focal image in the door, and suddenly the child was standing 
there and looking towards him. 

And even as he started from his pillows, and tried to call his wife he 
felt something thick and heavy in his throat that would not let him 
speak. He tried to call to her again but no sound came, then something 


wet and warm began to flow out of his mouth and nostrils, he lifted his 
hands up to his throat, the warm wet blood came pouring out across 
his fingers; he saw it and felt joy. 

For now the child or some one in the house was speaking, calling 
to him; he heard great footsteps, soft but thunderous, imminent, yet 
immensely far, a voice well-known, never heard before. He called to it, 
and then it seemed to answer him; he called to it with faith and joy tp 
give him rescue, strength, and life, and it answered him and told him 
that all the error, old age, pain and grief of life was nothing but an evil 
dream; that he who had been lost was found again, that his youth would 
be restored to him and that he would never die, and that he would find 
again the path he had not taken long ago in a dark wood. 

And the child still smiled at him from the dark door; the great steps, 
soft and powerful, came ever closer, and as the instant imminent ap- 
proach of that last meeting came intolerably near, he cried out through 
the lake of jetting blood, "Here, Father, here!" and heard a strong voice 
answer him, "My son!" 

At that instant he was torn by a rending cough, something waj 
wrenched loose in him, the death gasp rattled through his blood, and a 
mass of greenish matter foamed out through his lips. Then the world 
was blotted out, a blind black fog swam up and closed above his head, 
some one seized him, he was held, supported in two arms, he heard 
some one's voice saying in a low tone of terror and of pity, "Mr. Gant! 
Mr. Gant! Oh, poor man, poor man! He's gone!" And his brain faded 
into night. Even before she lowered him back upon the pillows, she 
knew that he was dead. 

Eliza's sharp scream brought three of her children Daisy, Steve, and 
Luke, and the nurse, Bessie Gant, who was the wife of Gant's nephew 
Ollie running from the kitchen. At the same moment Helen, who had 
taken an hour's sleep her first in two clays in the little hall-bedroom 
off the porch, was wakened by her mother's cry, the sound of a screen- 
door slammed, and the sound of footsteps running past her window on 
the porch. Then, for several minutes she had no consciousness of what 
she did, and later she could not remember it. Her actions were those of 
a person driven by a desperate force, who acts from blind intuition, not 
from reason. Instantly, the moment that she heard her mother scream, 
the slam of the screen-door, and the running feet, .she knew what had 


happened, and from that moment she knew only one frenzied desire; 
somehow to get to her father before he died. 

The breath caught hoarse and sharp in her throat in a kind of nervous 
sob, it seemed that her heart had stopped beating and that her whole 
life-force was paralyzed; but she was out of her bed with a movement 
that left the old springs rattling, and she came across the back-porch 
with a kind of tornado-like speed that just came instantly from nowhere: 
in a moment she was standing in the open door with the sudden bolted 
look of a person who has been shot through the heart, staring at the silent 
group of people, and at the figure on the bed, with a dull strained stare 
of disbelief and horror. 

All the time, although she was not conscious of it, her breath kept 
coming in a kind of hoarse short sob, her large big-boned face had an 
almost animal look of anguish and surprise, her mouth was partly open, 
her large chin hung down, and at this moment, as they turned towards 
her she began to moan, "Oh-h, oh-h, oh-h, oh-h!" in the same uncon- 
scious way, like a person who has received a heavy blow in the pit of the 
stomach. Then her mouth gaped open, a hoarse and ugly cry was torn 
from her throat a cry not of grief but loss and she rushed forward 
like a mad woman. They tried to stop her, to restrain her, she flung 
them away as if they had been rag dolls and hurled herself down across 
the body on the bed, raving like a maniac. 

"Oh, Papa, Papa. . . . Why didn't they tell me? ... Why didn't they 
let me know? . . . Why didn't they call me? ... Oh, Papa, Papa, 
Papa! . . . dead, dead, dead . , . and they didn't tell me . . . they 
didn't let me know . . . they let you die . . . and I wasn't here! ... I 
wasn't here!" and she wept harshly, horribly, bitterly, rocking back 
and forth like a mad woman, with a dead man in her arms. She kept 
moaning, ". . . They didn't tell me . . . they let you die without me 
... I wasn't here ... I wasn't here . . ." 

And even when they lifted her up from the bed, detached her arms 
from the body they had held in such a desperate hug, she still kept moan- 
ing in a demented manner, as if talking to the corpse, and oblivious of 
the presence of these living people : 

"They never told me ... they never told me. . . . They let you die 
here all by yourself . . . and I wasn't here ... I wasn't here." 

All of the women, except Bessie Gant, had now begun to weep hys- 
terically, more from shock, exhaustion, and the nervous strain than from 


grief, and now Bessie Gant's voice could be heard speaking to them 
sharply, coldly, peremptorily, as she tried to bring back order and calm- 
ness to the distracted scene: 

"Now, you get out of here all of you! . . . There's nothing more 
any of you can do I'll take care of all the rest of it! ... Get out, now 
... I can't have you in the room while there's work to do. ... Helen, 
go on back to bed and get seme sleep. . . . You'll feel better in the morn* 


"They never told me! ... They never told me," she turned and 
stared stupidly at Bessie Gant with dull glazed eyes. "Can't you do 
something? . . . Where's McGuirc? Has any one called him yet?" 

"No," said the nurse sharply and angrily, "and no one's going to. 
You're not going to get that man out of bed at this hour of the night 
when there's nothing to be clone. . . . Get out of here, now, all of you," 
she began to push and herd them towards the door. "I can't be bothered 
with you. . . . Go somewhere anywhere get drunk only don't come 
back in here." 

The whole house had come to life; in the excitement, shock, and ex- 
haustion of their nerves the dead man still lying there in such a grotesque 
and twisted position, was forgotten. One of Eliza's lodgers, a man 
named Gilmer, who had been in the house for years, was wakened, went 
out, and got a gallon of corn whiskey; every one drank a great deal, be- 
came, in fact, somewhat intoxicated; when the undertakers came to take 
Gant away, none of the family was present. No one saw it. They were 
all in the kitchen seated around Eliza's battered old kitchen table, with 
the jug of whiskey on the table before them. They drank and talked to- 
gether all night long until dawn came. 


THE morning of Gant's funeral the house was filled with people who 
had known him and the air was heavy with the sweet, cloying fragrance 
of the funeral flowers: the odors of lilies, roses, and carnations. His 
coffin was banked with flowers, but in the centre there was a curious 
and arresting plainness, a simple wreath of laurel leaves. Attached to 
the wreath was a small card on which these words were written: "Hugh 

And people passing by the coffin paused for a moment and stared at 
the name with a feeling of unspoken wonder in their hearts. Eliza stood 


looking at the wreath a moment with hands clasped across her waist, 
and then turned away, shaking her head rapidly, with a short convulsive 
pucker of her lips, as she spoke to Helen in a low voice: 

*'I tell you what it's pretty strange when you come to think of it it 
gives you a queer feeling I tell you what, it does." 

And this expressed the emotion that every one felt when they saw 
the wreath. For Hugh McGuire had been found dead at his desk at 
six o'clock that morning, the news had just spread through the town, 
and now, when people saw the wreath upon Gant's coffin, there was 
something in their hearts they could not utter. 

Gant lay in the splendid coffin, with his great hands folded quietly 
on his breast. Later, the boy could not forget his father's hands. They 
were the largest, most powerful, and somehow the most shapely hands 
he had ever seen. And even though his great right hand had been so 
crippled and stiffened by an attack of inflammatory rheumatism ten 
years before that he had never regained the full use of it, and since that 
time could only hold the great wooden mallet that the stone-cutters use 
in a painful and clumsy half-clasp between the thumb and the big 
stiffened fingers, his hands had never lost their character of life, strength, 
and powerful shapeliness. 

The hands had given to the interminable protraction of his living 
death a kind of concrete horror that it otherwise would not have had. 
For as his powerful gaunt figure waned and wasted under the ravages of 
the cancer that was consuming him until he had become only the en- 
feebled shadow of his former self, his gaunt hands, on which there was 
so little which death could consume, lost none of their former rock-like 
heaviness, strength and shapely power. Thus, even when the giant 
figure of the man had become nothing but a spectral remnant of itself, 
sunk in a sorrow of time, awaiting death, those great, still-living hands 
of power and strength hung incredibly, horribly, from that spectral form 
of death to which they were attached. 

And for this reason those powerful hands of life evoked, as nothing 
else could have done, in an instant searing flash of memory and recogni- 
tion the lost world of his father's life of manual power, hunger, fury, 
savage abundance and wild joy, the whole enchanted structure of that 
lost life of magic he had made for them. Constantly, those great hands 
"i life joined, with an almost grotesque incongruity, to that scarecrow 
form of wasting death would awake for them, as nothing else on earth 
could do, all of the sorrowful ghosts of time, the dream-like spell and 


terror of the years between, the years of phantom death, the horror of 
unreality, strangeness, disbelief, and memory, that haunted them. 

So was it now, even in death, with his father's hands. In their power- 
ful, gaunt and shapely clasp, as he lay dead in his coffin, there seemed to 
be held and gathered, somehow, all of his life that could never die a liv- 
ing image of the essential quality of his whole life with its fury and 
unrest, desire and hunger, the tremendous sweep and relish of its enor- 
mous appetites and the huge endowment of its physical and sensual 

Thus, one could suppose that on the face of a dead poet there might 
remain how, where or in what way we could not tell, a kind of flame, 
a light, a glory, the magic and still living chrysm of his genius. And on 
the face of the dead conqueror we might still see living, arrogant, and 
proud with all its dark authorities the frown of power, the inflexible 
tyranny of stern command, the special infinitude of the invincible will 
that would not die with life, and that incredibly remains, still dark and 
living in its scorn and mockery of time. 

Then, on the face of an old dead prophet or philosopher there would 
live and would not die the immortality of proud, lonely thought. We 
could not say just where that spirit rested. Sometimes it would seem to 
rest upon the temples of the grand and lonely head. Sometimes we 
would think it was a kind of darkness in the shadows of the closed and 
sunken eyes, sometimes the marsh fire of a dark and lambent flame that 
hovered round the face, that could never be fixed, but that we always 
knew was there. 

And just as poet, prophet, priest and conqueror might each retain in 
death some living and fitting ; ://iage of his whole life's truth, so would 
the strength, the skill, all of the hope, hunger, fury, and unrest that had 
lashed and driven on through life the gaunt figure of a stonecutter be 
marvellously preserved in the granite power and symmetry of those 
undying hands. 

Now the corpse was stretched out on the splendid satin cushions of 
the expensive coffin. It had been barbered, powdered, disembowelled, 
and pumped full of embalming fluid. And as it lay there with its waxen 
head set forward in its curious gaunt projectiveness, the pale lips firmly 
closed and with a little line of waxen mucous in the lips, the women 
came forward with their oily swollen faces, and a look of ravenous 
eagerness in their eyes, stared at it hard and long, lifted their sodden 
handkerchiefs slowly to their oily mouths, and were borne away, sobbing 


hysterically, by their equally oily, ravenous, sister orgiasts in sorrow. 

Meanwhile his father's friends, the stonecutters, masons, building 
contractors, butchers, business men and male relatives were standing 
awkwardly about, dressed in their good, black clothes which they seemed 
not to wear so much as to inhabit with a kind of unrestful itchiness, 
lowering their eyes gravely and regretfully as the women put on their 
revolting show, talking together in low voices, and wondering when it 
would all be over. 

These circumstances, together with the heavy unnatural languor of 
the funeral smells, the sweet-sick heaviness of the carnations, the funereal 
weepy blacks in which the women had arrayed themselves, the satiny 
sandalwood scent that came from the splendid coffin, and the fragrant 
faintly acrid odor of embalmed flesh, particularly when blended with 
the smell of cooking turnip greens, roast pork and apple sauce out in 
the kitchen, combined to create an atmosphere somewhat like a dinner 
party in a comfortably furnished morgue. 

In all this obscene pomp of burial there was something so grotesque, 
unnatural, disgusting, and remote from all he could remember of the 
dead man's life and personality that everything about him even the 
physical horror of his bloody death now seemed so far away he could 
hardly believe it ever happened. Therefore, he stared at this waxen and 
eviscerated relic in the coffin with a sense of weird disbelief, unable to 
relate it to the living man who had bled great lakes of blood the night 

Yet, even in his death, his father's hands still seemed to live, and 
would not die. And this was the reason why the memory of those 
hands haunted him then and would haunt him forever after. This 
was the reason why, when he would try to remember how he looked 
when dead, he could remember nothing clearly except the powerful 
sculptured weight and symmetry of his tremendous hands as they 
lay folded on his body in the coffin. The great hands had a stony, 
sculptured and yet living strength and vitality, as if Michelangelo 
had carved them. They seemed to rest there upon the groomed, bereft 
and vacant horror of the corpse with a kind of terrible reality as if there 
really is, in death, some energy t)f life that will not die, some element of 
man's life that must persist and that resumes into a single feature of his 
life the core and essence of his character. 



STARWICK had now become his best and closest friend. Suddenly, it 
occurred to him with a strange and bitter sense of loss and lack that 
Starwick was the only friend of his own age that he had ever known 
to whom he had fully and passionately revealed his own life, of whose 
fellowship and comradeship he had never grown weary. Friends he had 
had friends in the casual and indifferent sense in which most friend- 
ship is understood but until now he had never held a friend like Star 
wick in his heart's core. 

Why was it ? What was this grievous lack or loss if lack or loss it 
was in his own life? Why was it that, with his fierce, bitter, and in- 
satiate hunger for life, his quenchless thirst for warmth, joy, love, and 
fellowship, his constant image, which had blazed in his heart since 
childhood, of the enchanted city of the great comrades and the glorious 
women, that he grew weary of people almost as soon as he met them ? 
Why was it that he seemed to squeeze their lives dry of any warmth and 
interest they might have for him as one might squeeze an orange, and 
then was immediately filled with boredom, disgust, dreary tedium, and 
an impatient weariness and desire to escape so agonizing that it turned 
his feeling almost into hatred? 

Why was it that his spirit was now filled with this furious unrest and 
exasperation against people because none of them seemed as good as they 
should be ? Where did it come from this improvable and yet unshakable 
conviction that grew stronger with every rebuff and disappointment 
that the enchanted world was here around us ready to our hand the 
moment that we chose to take it for our own, and that the impossible 
magic in life of which he dreamed, for which he thirsted, had been 
denied us net because it was a phantom of desire, but because men had 
been too base and weak to take what was their own ? 

Now, with Starwick, and for the first time, he felt this magic 
constantly this realization of a life forever good, forever warm and 
beautiful, forever flashing with the fires of passion, poetry and joy, for- 
ever filled with the swelling and triumphant confidence of youth, its 
belief in new lands, morning, and a shifting city, its hope of voyages, its 
conviction of a fortunate, good and happy life an imperishable happi- 
ness and joy that was impending, that would be here at any moment. 

For a moment he looked at the strange and delicate face of the 
young man beside him, reflecting, with a sense of wonder, at his com- 


munion with this other life, so different from his own in. kind and 
temper. What was it? Was it the sharp mind, that original and pene- 
trating instrument which picked up the old and weary problems of the 
spirit by new handles, displaying without labor planes and facets rarely 
seen? With what fierce joy he welcomed those long walks together in 
the night, along the quiet streets of Cambridge, or by the marvellous 
river that wound away small and magical in the blazing moonlight into 
the sweet, dark countryside! What other pleasure, what other ap- 
peasement of his mind and sense had been so complete and wonderful 
as that which came from this association as, oblivious of the world, they 
carried on their fierce debate about all things under heaven; his own 
voice, passionate, torrential, and wild, crying out against the earth, the 
moon, invoking all the gods of verse and magic while his mind played 
rivers of lightning across the vast fields of reading and experience! 

And how eagerly he waited for the answers of that other voice, quiet, 
weary, drawling how angrily he stormed against its objections, how 
hungrily and gratefully he fed upon its agreement! What other tongue 
had had the power to touch his pride and his senses as this one had 
how cruelly had its disdain wounded him, how magnificently had its 
praise filled his heart with glory! On these nights when he and Starwick 
had walked along the river in these vehement, passionate, and yet affec- 
tionate debates, he would relive the scene for hours after it had ended, 
going over their discussion again and again, remembering every gesture, 
every intonation of the voice, every flash of life and passion in the face. 
Late in the night he would pace up and down his room, or pause dream- 
ing by his window, still carrying on in his mind the debate with his 
friend, inventing and regretting splendid things he might have said, 
exulting in those he had said and in every word of approval or burst of 
laughter he had provoked. And he would think : Ah, but I was good 
there! I could see how he admired me, how high a place I have in his 
affection. For when he says a thing he means it: he called me a poet, his 
voice was quiet and full of passion, he said my like had never been, 
that my destiny was great and sure. 

Was this, then, the answer? 

Until this period of his life he had drunk very little: in spite of the 
desperate fear his mother had that each of her children inherited the 
whiskey disease "the curse of licker," as she called it from their father, 
he felt no burning appetite for stimulant. Alone, he never sought it out, 


he never bought a bottle for himself: solitary as his life had become, the 
idea of solitary drinking, of stealthy alley potations from a flask, filled 
him with sodden horror. 

Now, in the company of Starwick, he was drinking more frequently 
than he had ever done before. Alcohol, indeed, until his twentieth year had 
been only a casual and infrequent spirit once, in his seventeenth year, 
when he had come home from college at the Christmas vacation, he had 
got very drunk on various liquors which his brother Luke had brought 
home to his father, and which he had mixed together in a tumbler, and 
drunk without discretion. And there had been two or three casual sprees 
during his years at college, but until this time he had never known the 
experience of frequent intoxication. 

But now, in the company of Frank Starwick, he went every week or 
so to a little restaurant which was situated in the Italian district of the 
eastern quarter of town, beyond Scollay Square and across Washington 
Street. The place was Starwick's own discovery, he hoarded his knowl- 
edge of it with stern secrecy, yielding it up only to a few friends a few 
rare and understanding spirits who would not coarsely abuse the old- 
world spirit of this priceless place because, he said: 

"It would be a pity if it ever got known about. It really would, you 
know. ... I mean, the kind of people who would begin to go there 
would ruin it. ... They really would. ... I mean, it's quite astonish- 
ing to find a place of that sort here in Boston." 

It was the beginning of that dark time of blood, and crime, and terror 
which the years of prohibition brought and which was to leave its 
hideous mutilation not only upon the soul and conscience of the nation, 
but upon the lives of millions of people particularly the young every- 
where. At this time, however, the ugly, jeering, open arrogance of the 
later period the foul smell of privilege and corruption, the smirk of 
protection, and the gangster's sneer, were not so evident as they be- 
came in the years that followed. At this time, it was by no means easy 
"to get a drink": the speakeasy had already started on its historic career, 
but was still more or less what its name suggested a place to be got at 
quietly and by stealth, a place of low voices, furtive and suspicious eyes, 
and elaborate precautions. 

The place which Starwick had "discovered," and which he hoarded 
with such precious secrecy, was a small Italian restaurant known as 
Posillipo's, which occupied the second floor of an old brick building in 
an obscure street of the Italian quarter. Frank pronounced the name 


strongly and lovingly "Pothillippo's" in the mannered voice, and with 
the nfTcctcd accent which all foreign and exotic names particularly 
those that had a Latin flavoring inspired in him. 

Arrived at "Pothillippo's," Frank, who even at this time did all things 
with the most lavish and lordly extravagance, and who tipped gen- 
erously at every opportunity, would be welcomed obsequiously by the 
proprietor and the waiters, and then would order with an air of the most 
refined and sensual discrimination from his favorite waiter, a suave and 
fawning servitor named Nino. There were other waiters just as good 
as Nino, but Frank expressed an overwhelming preference for him above 
all others because, he said, Nino had the same face as one of the saints in 
a painting by Giotto, and because he professed to find all of the ancient. 
grave and exquisite rhythm of the ancient Tuscan nobility composed in 
the one figure of this waiter. 

"But have you noticed the way he uses his hands while talking?* 
Frank would say in a (one of high impassioned earnestness. "Did yoc 
notice that last gesture? It is the same gesture that you find in the figure 
of the disciple Thomas in Leonardo's painting of 'The Last Supper/ It 
really is, you know. . . . Christ!" be would cry, in his high, strange, and 
rather womanish tone. "The centuries of art, of living of culture the 
terrific knowledge all these jx?oplc have the kind of thing you'll never 
find in people in ibis country, the kind of thing that no amount of college 
education or books can give you all expressed in a single gesture of the 
hands of this Italian waiter, . . . The whole things unite astonishing. 

C? jt C?' 

it rcallv is, you know/' 


The real reason, however, that Frank preferred Xino to all the other 
waiters in "Podiillippo's" establishment was that he liked the sound of 
the word "Nino," and pronounced it beautifully. 

"Nino!" Frank would cry, in a high, strange, and rather womanish 
voice "Nino!" 

"Si, signor," Nino would breathe unctuously, and would then stand in 
an attitude of heavy and prayerful adoration, awaiting the young lord's 
next commands. 

"Nino," Frank would then go on in the tone and manner of a sensuous 
and weary old-world sophisticate. "Quel vin avez-vous? . . . Quel vin 
rouge du trcs bon. Vous comprcncv.? said Frank, using up in 
one speech most of his French words, but giving a wonderful sense of 
linguistic mastery and complete eloquence in two languages. 

"Mais si, signor!" Nino would answer immediately, skilfully buttering 


Frank on both sides the French and the Italian with three masterly 

"Le Chianti est tres, tres bon! . . . C'est parfait, monsieur," he whis- 
pered, with a little ecstatic movement of his fingers. "Admirable!" 

"Bon," said Frank with an air of quiet decision. "Alors, Nino," he con- 
tinued, raising his voice as he pronounced these two words, which were 
among his favorites. "Alors, une bouteilk du Chianti n'est-ce pas '* 

"Mais si, signer!" said Nino, nodding enthusiastically. "Si et pour 
manger?" he went on coaxingly. 

"Pour manger?" Frank began "Ecoute, Nino vous pouvez recom- 
mander quelquc-chose quelque-chose d' extraordinaire!" Frank cried in 
a high impassioned tone. "Quelque-chose de la maison!" he concluded 

"Mais, si!" Nino cried enthusiastically. "Si, signor. . . . Permettez- 
moi ! . . . Le spaghetti," he whispered seductively, rolling his dark eyes 
rapturously aloft, and making a little mincing movement, indicative of 
speechless ecstasy, of his thumb and forefinger. "Le spaghetti . . . de la 
. . . maison . . . ah, signor," Nino breathed "le spaghetti avec la 
sauce de la maison est merveilleuse . . . merveilleuse!" he whispered. 

"Bon," said Starwick nodding. "Alors, Nino le spaghetti pour deux 
vous comprenez?" 

"Mais si, signor! Si," Nino breathed. "Parfaitement" and wrote the 
miraculous order on his order pad. "Et puis, monsieur," said Nino 
coaxingly, and with complete humility. "Permettez moi de recom- 
mander le poulet," he whispered rapturously "le poulet roti," he 
breathed, as if unveiling the rarest secrets of cookery that had been re- 
vealed since the days of Epicurus "le poulet roti . . . de la maison," 
again he made the little speechless movement of the finger and the 
thumb, and rolled his rapturous eyes around "ah, signor," said Nino, 
"Vous n'aurez pas de regrets si vous commandez le poulet." 

"Bon. . . . Bon," said Starwick quietly and profoundly. "Alors, Nino 
deux poulets rotis, pour moi et pour monsieur," he commanded. 

"Bon, bon," said Nino, nodding vigorously and writing with enthu- 
siasm "et pour la salade, messieurs," he paused looking inquiringly 
and yet hopefully at both his lordly young patrons. 

And so it went, until the menu had all been gone through in mangled 
French and monosyllabic Italian. When this great ceremony was over, 
Frank Starwick had done nothing more nor less than order the one- 
dollar table d'hote dinner which Signor "Pothillippo" provided for all 


the patrons of his establishment and whose order soup, fish, spaghetti, 
roasted chicken, salad, ice-cream, cheese, nuts and bitter coffee was 
unchangeable as destiny, and not to be altered by the whims of common 
men, whether they would or no. 

And yet Frank's manner of ordering his commonplace rather dreary 
meal was so touched by mystery, strangeness, an air of priceless rarity 
and sensual refinement, that one would smack his lips over the various 
dishes with a gourmandizing gusto, as if the art of some famous chef 
had really been exhausted in their preparation. 

And this element of Frank Starwick's character was one of the finest 
and most attractive things about him. It was, perhaps as much as any- 
thing else, the reason why people of all kinds were drawn to him, de- 
lighted to be with him, and why Frank could command the boundless 
affection, devotion, and support of people more than any one the other 
boy had over known. 

For, in spite of all Frank's affectations of tone, manner, gesture, and 
accent, in spite of the elaborately mannered style of his whole life no! 
really because of them (for what were all these manners and affectations 
except the evidence of Frank's constant effort to give qualities of 
strangeness, mystery, rareness, joy and pleasure to common things that 
had none of these qualities in themselves) the deep and passionate de- 
sire in Frank's spirit to find a life that would always be good, beautiful, 
and exciting was apparent. 

And to an amazing degree, Frank Starwick succeeded in investing all 
the common and familiar acts and experiences of this world with this 
strange and romantic color of his own personality. 

When one was with him, everything "le Chianti de la maison," a 
cigarette, the performance of a play, a poem or a book, a walk across the 
Harvard Yard, or along the banks of the Charles River became strange 
and rare and memorable, and for this reason Frank, in spite of the cor- 
rupt and rotten spot which would develop in his character and even- 
tually destroy him, was one of the rarest and highest people that ever 
lived, and could never be forgotten by any one who had ever known 
him, and been his friend. 

For, by a baffling paradox, these very affectations of Frank's speech 
and dress and carriage, the whole wrought manner of his life, which 
caused many people who disbelieved him to dismiss him bitterly as an 
affected and artificial poseur, really came from something innocent and 
naive and good in Frank's character something as innocent and fa- 


miliar as the affectations of Tom Sawyer when he told tall stories, in- 
vented wild, complicated, and romantic schemes, when none was neces- 
sary, or used big words to impress his friends, the nigger Jim, or Huckle- 
berry Finn. 

Thus, the two young men would stay in "Pothillippo's" until late at 
night when the place closed, drinking that wonderful "Chianti de la 
maison," so preciously and lovingly described, which was really nothing 
but "dago red," raw, new, and instantaneous in its intoxication, filled 
with headaches and depression for tomorrow morning, but filled now 
with the mild, soaring, jubilant and triumphant drunkenness that only 
youth can know. 

And they would leave this place of Latin mystery and languor at one 
o'clock in the morning, Frank shouting in a high drunken voice before 
he left, 'Nino! Nino! II faut quelque chose a boire avant de partir - 
Nino! Nino! Encora! Encora!" pronouncing his last Italian word 

"Mais si, signer," Nino would answer, smiling somewhat anxiously. 

"Mais non, mais non, Nino" Frank would cry violently. "Pas de vm 
du wis-kee, Nino! Du wis-kee!" 

Then they would gulp down drinks of the raw and powerful bev- 
erage to which the name of whiskey had been given in that era, and 
leaving a dim blur of lights, a few dim blots of swarthy, anxiously smil- 
ing faces behind them, they would reel dangerously down the rickety 
stairs and out into the narrow, twisted streets, the old grimed web of 
sleeping quietness, the bewildering, ancient, and whited streets of 

Above them, in the cool sweet skies of night, the great moons of the 
springtime, and New England, blazed with a bare, a lovely and en- 
chanted radiance. And around them the great city, and its thousand 
narrow twisted streets lay anciently asleep beneath that blazing moon, 
and from the harbor came the sound of ships, the wasting, fresh, half- 
rotten harbor-smells, filled with the thought of ships, the sea, the proud 
exultancy of voyages. And out of the cobbled streets and from the old 
grimed buildings yes! from the very breast and bareness of that spring- 
time moon and those lovely lilac skies, there came somehow God 
knows how all of the sweet wildness of New England in the month 
bf May. the smell of the earth, the sudden green, the glorious blossom* 


~-all that was wild, sweet, strange, simple, instantly familiar that im- 
possible loveliness, that irresistible magic, that unutterable hope for the 
magic that could not be spoken, but that seemed almost in the instant 
to be seized, grasped, and made one's own forever for the hunger, 
possession and fulfilment and for God knows what for that magic 
land of green, its white and lovely houses, and the white flesh, the moon- 
dark hair, the depthless eyes and everlasting silence of its secret, dark, 
and lavish women. 

Dark Helen in our hearts forever burning oh, no more! 

Then the two young men would thread that maze of drunken moon- 
lit streets, and feel the animate and living silence of the great city all 
around them, and look then at the moon with drunken eyes, and see 
the moon, all bare and drunken in the skies, the whole earth and the 
ancient city drunk with joy and sleep and springtime and the enchanted 
silences of the moon-drunk squares. And they would come at length 
to Cambridge, to find the moonlight dark upon the sleeping silence ot 
the university and Harvard Square, and exultancy and joy welled up itt 
them forever, wild shouts and songs and laughter were torn from thek 
throats and rang out through the sleeping streets of Cambridge, filling 
the moon-sweet air with jubilation, for they were drunken, young, and 
twenty immortal confidence and victorious strength possessed them 
and they knew that they could never die. 

Immortal drunkenness! What tribute can we ever pay, what song can 
we ever sing, what swelling praise can ever be sufficient to express the 
joy, the gratefulness, and the love which we, who have known youth and 
hunger in America, have owed to alcohol ? 

We are so lost, so lonely, so forsaken in America: immense and sav- 
age skies bend over us, and we have no door. 

But you, immortal drunkenness, came to us in our youth when all our 
hearts were sick with hopelessness, our spirits maddened with unknown 
terrors, and our heads bowed down with nameless shame. You came to 
us victoriously, to possess us, and to fill our lives with your wild music, 
to make the goat-cry burst from our exultant throats, to make us know 
that here upon the wilderness, the savage land, that here beneath im- 
mense, inhuman skies of time, in all the desolation of the cities, the 
gray unceasing flood-tides of the manswarm, our youth would soar to 
fortune, fame, and love, our spirits quicken with the power of mighty 
poetry, our work go on triumphantly to fulfilment until our lives 


What does it matter then if since that time of your first coming, magic 
drunkenness, our head has grown bald, our young limbs heavy, and if 
our flesh has lain battered, bleeding in the stews ? 

You came to us with music, poetry, and wild joy when we were 
twenty, when we reeled home at night through the old moon-whitened 
streets of Boston and heard our friend, our comrade, and our dead com- 
panion, shout through the silence of the moon white square : "You are a 
poet and the world is yours." 

And victory, joy, wild hope, and swelling certitude and tenderness 
surged through the conduits of our blood as we heard that drunken cry, 
and triumph, glory, proud belief was resting like a chrysm around us as 
we heard that cry, and turned our eyes then to the moon-drunk skies of 
Boston, knowing only that we were young, and drunk, and twenty, and 
that the power of mighty poetry was within us, and the glory of the 
great earth lay before us because we were young and drunk and twenty, 
and could never die! 


WHEN Oswald Ten Eyck left his $8000 job on the Hearst Syndicate 
and came to Cambridge to enroll in Professor Hatcher's celebrated 
course for dramatists, he had saved a sum rare in the annals of journal- 
ism $700. When he got through paying the tuition, admission, and 
other accessory fees that would entitle him to a membership in good 
standing in the graduate school of the university, something less than 
$500 remained. Oswald got an attic room in Cambridge, in a square, 
smut-gray frame house which was the home of an Irish family named 
Grogan. To reach his room, he had to mount a rickety flight of stairs 
that was almost as steep as a ladder, and when he got there, he had to 
manage his five feet five of fragile stature carefully in order to keep 
from cracking his head upon the sloping white-washed walls that fol- 
lowed the steep pitch of the roof with painful fidelity. The central part 
of Oswald's room, which was the only place in which the little man 
could stand erect, was not over four feet wide : there was a single window 
at the front where stood his writing table. He had a couple of straight 
chairs, a white iron cot pushed in under the eave of the left side, a few 
bookshelves pushed in under the eave of the right. It could literally be 
said that the playwright crawled to bed, and when he read he had to ap- 
proach the poets as a poet should upon his knees. 


For this austere cell, Professor Hatcher's dramatist paid Mrs. Mary 
Grogan fifteen dollars every month. Therefore, when the primary 
fees of tuition and matriculation and the cell in Mrs. Grogan's house had 
Deen accounted for, Oswald Ten Eyck had all of $300 left to take care of 
:lothing, food, tobacco, books, and plays during the ensuing period of 
nine months. This sum perhaps was adequate, but it was not grand, 
and Ten Eyck, poet though he was, was subject to all those base crav- 
ings of sensual desire that 100 pounds of five feet five is heir to. 

This weakness of the flesh was unhappily reflected in the artist's work. 
During the brief period of his sojourn in Professor Hatcher's class, his 
plays were numerous but for the most part low. Ten Eyck turned them 
DUt with the feverish haste which only a trained newspaper man can 
ichieve when driven on by the cherished ambition of a lifetime and the 
knowledge that art is long and $300 very fleeting. He had started out 
nost promisingly in the fleshless ethers of mystic fantasy, but he became 
progressively more sensual until at the end he was practically wallowing 
n a trough of gluttony. 

The man, in fact, became all belly when he wrote and this was 
itrange in a frail creature with the large burning eyes of a religious 
jealot, hands small-boned, fleshless as a claw, and a waist a rubber band 
.vould have snapped round comfortably. He seemed compact of flame 
ind air and passion and an agonizing shyness. Professor Hatcher had 
*reat hopes for him the whole atom was framed, Professor Hatcher 
hought, for what the true Hatcherian called "the drama of revolt," but 
he flaming atom fooled him, fooled him cruelly. For after the brilliant 
>romise of that first beginning a delicate, over-the-hills-and-far-away 
; antasy reminiscent of Synge, Yeats, and the Celtic Dawn brain bowed 
o belly, Ten Eyck wrote of food. 

His second effort was a one-act play whose action took place on the 
idewalk in front of a Childs restaurant, while a white-jacketed at- 
endant deftly flipped brown wheat-cakes on a plate. The principal 
:haracter, and in fact the only speaker in this play, was a starving poet 
vho stood before the window and delivered himself of a twenty-minute 
nonologue on a poet's life and the decay of modern society, in the course 
>f which most of the staple victuals on the Childs menu were men- 
ioned frequently and with bitter relish. 

Professor Hatcher felt his interest waning: he had hoped for finer 
hings. Yet a wise caution learned from errors in the past had taught 
lim to forbear. He knew that out of man's coarse earth the finer flow- 


ers of his spirit sometimes grew. Some earlier members of his class had 
taught him this, some who had written coarsely of coarse things. They 
wrote of sailors, niggers, thugs, and prostitutes, of sunless lives and evil 
strivings, of murder, hunger, rape, and incest, r. black picture of man's 
life unlighted by a spark of grace, a ray of hope, a flicker of the higher 
vision. Professor Hatcher had not always asked them to return to 
"come back for a second year," which was the real test of success and 
future promise in the Hatcherian world. And yet, unknighted by this 
accolade, some had gone forth and won renown: their grim plays had 
been put on everywhere and in all languages. And the only claim the 
true Hatcherian could make of them was: "Yes, they were with us but 
not of us : they were not asked to come back for a second year." 

There were some painful memories, but Professor Hatcher had de- 
rived from them a wise forbearance. His hopes for Oswald Ten Eyck 
were fading fast, but he had determined to hold his judgment in abey- 
ance until Oswald's final play. But, as if to relieve his distinguished 
tutor from a painful choice, Ten Eyck himself decided it. After his 
third play there was no longer any doubt of the decision. For that play, 
which Oswald called "Dutch Fugue," would more aptly have been titled 
"No Return." 

It was a piece in four acts dealing with the quaintly flavored life and 
customs of his own people, the Hudson River Dutch. The little man was 
hotly proud of his ancestry, and always insisted with a slight sneer of 
aristocratic contempt: "Not the Pennsylvania Dutch Good God, no! 
They're not Dutch but German: the real Dutch, the old Dutch, Cats* 
\ill Dutch!" And if Ten Eyck's interest in food had been uncomforta* 
bly pronounced in his earlier work, in this final product of his curious 
genius, his sensual appetities became indecent in their unrestraint. It 
is doubtful if the long and varied annals of the stage have ever offered 
such a spectacle: the play became a sort of dramatic incarnation of the 
belly, acted by a cast of fourteen adults, male and female, all of whom 
were hearty eaters. 

The central events of that extraordinary play, which were a birth, a 
death, a wedding, were all attended by eating, drinking, and the noises 
of the feast. Scene followed scene with kaleidoscopic swiftness: the 
jubilant merry-making of the christening had hardly died away before 
the stage was set, the trestles groaning, with the more sombre, sober and 
substantial victuals of the funeral; and the wheels of the hearse had 


hardly echoed away into the distance before the scene burst out in all 
the boisterous reel and rout and feasting of the wedding banquet. Of 
no play that was ever written could it be more aptly said that the funeral 
baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables, and what is 
more, they almost furnished forth the casket and the corpse as well. 
Finally, the curtain fell as it had risen, upon a groaning table surrounded 
by the assembled cast of fourteen famished gluttons a scene in which 
apparently the only sound and action were provided by the thrust of 
jowl and smack of lip, a kind of symphonic gluttony of reach and grab, 
zadenced by the stertorous breathing of the eaters, the clash of crockery, 
and the sanguinary drip of rare roast beef the whole a prophetic 
augury that flesh was grass and man's days fleeting, that life would 
change and reappear in an infinite succession of births and deaths and 
marriages, but that the holy rites of eating and the divine permanence 
of good dinners and roast beef were indestructible and would endure 

Ten Eyck read the play himself one Friday afternoon to Professor 
Hatcher and his assembled following. He read in a rapid high-pitched 
voice, turning the pages with a trembling claw, and thrusting his long 
fingers nervously through his disordered mop of jet-black hair. As he 
went on, the polite attention of the class was changed insensibly to a 
paralysis of stupefaction. Professor Hatcher's firm thin lips became 
much firmer, thinner, tighter. A faint but bitter smile was printed at 
the edges of his mouth. Then, for a moment, when the playwright 
finished, there was silence: Professor Hatcher slowly raised his hand, 
detached his gold-rimmed glasses from his distinguished nose, and let 
them fall and dangle on their black silk cord. He looked around the 
class; his cultivated voice was low, controlled, and very quiet. 

"Is there any comment?" Professor Hatcher said. 

No one answered for a moment. Then Mr. Grey, a young patrician 
from Philadelphia, spoke: 

"I think," he said with a quiet emphasis of scorn, "I think he might 
very well get it produced in the Chicago Stock Yards." 

Mr. Grey's remark was ill-timed. For the Stock Yards brought to 
Ten Eyck's mind a thought of beef, and beef brought back a memory of 
his palmy days with Mr. Hearst when beef was plenty and the pay- 
checks fat, and all these thoughts brought back the bitter memory of 
the day before which was the day when he had eaten last: a single 


meal, a chaste and wholesome dinner of spaghetti, spinach, coffee, and 
a roll. And thinking, Ten Eyck craned his scrawny neck convulsively 
along the edges of his fraying collar, looked desperately at Professor 
Hatcher, who returned his gaze inquiringly; ducked his head quickly, 
bit his nails and craned again. Then, suddenly, seeing the cold patrician 
features of young Mr. Grey, his blue shirt of costly madras, his limp 
crossed elegance of legs and pleated trousers, the little man half rose, 
scraping his chair back from the table round which the class was sitting, 
and with an inclusive gesture of his claw-like hand, screamed inco* 
herently : 

"These! These! . . . We have the English. ... As for the Russians. 
. . . Take the Germans Toller Kaiser the Expressionists. . . . But 
the Dutch, the Dutch, the Catslytt Dutch. . . ." Pointing a trembling 
finger towards Mr. Grey, he shrieked : "The Philadelphia Cricket Club. 
. . . God! God!" he bent, racked with soundless laughter, his thin 
hands pressed against his sunken stomach. "That it should come to 
this!" he said, and suddenly, catching Professor Hatcher's cold impassive 
eye upon him, he slumped down abruptly in his seat, and fell to biting 
his nails : "Well, I don't know," he said with a foolish little laugh. "May- 
be I guess ..." his voice trailed off, he did not finish. 

"Is there any other comment?" said Professor Hatcher. 

There was none. 

"Then," said Professor Hatcher, "the class is dismissed until next 

Professor Hatcher did not look up as Ten Eyck went out. 

When Oswald got out into the corridor, he could hear the last footfalls 
of the departing class echoing away around the corner. For a moment, 
he leaned against the wall: he felt hollow, weak, and dizzy: his knees 
bent under him like rubber, and his head, after its recent flood of blood 
and passion, felt swollen, light, and floating as a toy balloon. Suddenly 
he remembered that it was Friday. Saturday, the day on which he 
could next allow himself to take a little from his dwindling hoard for 
such was the desperate resolution made at the beginning and adhered 
to ever since Saturday shone desperately far away, a small and shining 
disc of light at the black mouth of an interminable tunnel, and all giddy, 
weak, and hollow as he was, he did not see how he could wait! So he 
surrendered. He knew that if he hurried now he would be just in time 
for old Miss Potter's Friday afternoon. And torn between hunger and 
disgust, Ten Eyck gave in again to hunger as he had done a score of 


times before, even when he knew that he must face again that crowning 
horror of modern life, the art party. 

Miss Potter was a curious old spinster of some property, and she 
lived, with a companion, in a pleasant house on Garden Street, not far 
from the University. Miss Potter's companion was also an aged spin- 
ster: her name was Miss Flitcroft; the two women were inseparable. 
Miss Potter was massively constructed; a ponderous woman who 
moved heavily and with wheezing difficulty, and whose large eyes 
bulged comically out of a face on which a strange fixed grin was always 

Miss Flitcroft was a wren of a woman, with bony little hands, and an 
old withered, rather distinguished-looking face: she wore a band of 
velvet around her stringy neck. She was not only a companion, she was 
also a kind of nurse to Miss Potter, and she could give relief and com- 
fort to the other woman as no one else could. 

For Miss Potter was really very ill: she had a savage love of life, a 
desperate fear of death, and she knew that she was dying. But even the 
woman's sufferings, which were obviously intense, were touched by that 
grotesque and ridiculous quality that made Ten Eyck want to howl 
with explosive laughter, even when he felt a rending pity for her. Thus, 
at table sometimes, with all her tribe of would-be poets, playwrights, 
composers, novelists, painters, critics, and enfeebled litterateurs gathered 
around her, putting away the delicious food she had so abundantly pro- 
vided, Miss Potter would suddenly begin to choke, gasp, and cough hor- 
ribly; her eyes would bulge out of her head in a fish-like stare, and look- 
ing desperately at Miss Flitcroft with an expression of unutterable ter- 
ror, she would croak: . . . "Dying! Dying! I tell you I'm dying!" 

"Nonsense!" Miss Flitcroft would answer tartly, jumping up and 
running around behind Miss Potter's chair. "You're no such thing! . . . 
You've only choked yourself on something you have eaten! There!" 
and she would deliver herself straightway of a resounding whack upon 
Miss Potter's meaty, mottled back (for on these great Friday afternoons, 
Miss Potter came out sumptuously in velvet, which gave ample glimpses 
of her heavy arms and breasts and the broad thick surface of her shoul- 
ders) . 

"If you didn't eat so fast these things would never happen!" Miss Flit- 
croft would say acidly, as she gave Miss Potter another resounding 
whack on her bare shoulders. "Now you get over this nonsense!" . . . 


whack! "There's nothing wrong with you do you hear?" . . . whack! 
"You're frightened half out of your wits," . . . whack! . . . "just be- 
cause you've tried to stuff everything down your throat at once!" whack! 
whack ! 

And by this time, Miss Potter would be on the road to recovery, gasp- 
ing and panting more easily now, as she continued to look up with a 
fixed stare of her bulging eyes at Miss Flitcroft, with an expression full 
of entreaty, dawning hopefulness, apology, and pitiable gratitude. 

As for Ten Eyck, his pain and embarrassment when one of these 
catastrophes occurred were pitiable. He would scramble to his feet, stand 
helplessly, half -crouched, casting stricken glances toward the most con- 
venient exit as if contemplating the possibility of a sudden and in- 
glorious flight. Then he would turn again toward the two old women, 
his dark eyes fixed on them in a fascinated stare in which anguish, sym- 
pathy, helplessness and horror were all legible. 

For several years, in spite of her ill health, Miss Potter had fiddled 
around on the edges of Professor Hatcher's celebrated course at the 
university. She had written a play or two herself, took a passionate in- 
terest in what she called "the work," was present at the performances 
of all the plays, and was a charter member of Professor Hatcher's care- 
fully selected and invited audiences. Now, whether by appointment or 
self-election, she had come to regard herself as a kind of embassadress 
for Professor Hatcher's work and was the chief sponsor of its social life. 

The grotesque good old woman was obsessed by that delusion which 
haunts so many wealthy people who have no talent and no understand- 
ing, but who are enchanted by the glamour which they think surrounds 
the world of art. Miss Potter thought that through these Friday after- 
noons she could draw together all the talent, charm, and brilliance of the 
whole community. She thought that she could gather here not only 
Professor Hatcher's budding dramatists and some older representatives 
of the established order, but also poets, painters, composers, philosophers, 
"radical thinkers," people "who did interesting things," of whatever 
kind and quality. And she was sure that from this mad melange every 
one would derive a profitable and "stimulating" intercourse. 

Here, from the great "art community" of Cambridge and Boston, came 
a whole tribe of the feeble, the sterile, the venomous and inept the mea- 
gre little spirits of no talent and of great pretensions : the people who had 
once got an essay printed in The Atlantic Monthly or published "a 


slender volume" of bad verse; the composers who had had one dull aca- 
demic piece performed a single time by the Boston Symphony; the 
novelists, playwrights, painters, who had none of the "popular success" at 
which they sneered and which they pretended to despise, but for which 
each would have sold his shabby little soul ; the whole wretched poison- 
ous and embittered crew of those who had "taken" some one's celebrated 
course, or had spent a summer at the MacDowell Colony in short, the 
true philistines of art the true enemies of the artist's living spirit, the 
true defilers and betrayers of creation the impotent fumbling little 
half men of the arts whose rootless, earthless, sunless lives have grown 
underneath a barrel, and who bitterly nurse their fancied injuries, the 
swollen image of their misjudged worth, and hiss and sting in all the im- 
potent varieties of their small envenomed hate; who deal the stealthy 
traitor's blow in darkness at the work and talent of far better men than 

Usually, when Ten Eyck went to Miss Potter's house he found sev- 
eral members of Professor Hatcher's class who seemed to be in regular 
attendance on all these Friday afternoons. These others may have come 
for a variety of reasons : because they were bored, curious, or actually 
enjoyed these affairs, but the strange, horribly shy and sensitive 
little man who bore the name of Oswald Ten Eyck came from a kind 
of desperate necessity, the ravenous hunger of his meagre half -starved 
body, and his chance to get his one good dinner of the week. 

It was evident that Ten Eyck endured agonies of shyness, boredom, 
confusion, and tortured self-consciousness at these gatherings but he 
was always there, and when they sat down at the table he ate with the 
voracity of a famished animal. The visitor to Miss Potter's reception 
room would find him, usually backed into an inconspicuous corner 
away from the full sound and tumult of the crowd, nervously holding a 
tea-cup in his hands, talking to some one in the strange blurted-out 
desperate fashion that was characteristic of him, or saying nothing for 
long periods, biting his nails, thrusting his slender hands desperately 
through his mop of black disordered hair, breaking from time to time 
into a shrill, sudden, almost hysterical laugh, blurting out a few volcanic 
words, and then relapsing into his desperate hair-thrusting silence. 

The man's agony of shyness and tortured nerves was painful to watch: 
it made him say and do sudden, shocking and explosive things that 
could suddenly stun a gathering such as this, and plunge him back im- 
mediately into a black pit of silence, self-abasement and despair. And 


as great as his tortured sensitivity was, it was greater for other 
than for himself. He could far better endure a personal affront, a 
wounding of his own quick pride, than see another person wounded. 
His anguish, in fact, when he saw this kind of suffering in other people 
would become so acute that he was no longer responsible for his acts: 
he was capable of anything on such an occasion. 

And such occasions were not lacking at Miss Potter's Friday after- 
noons. For even if the entire diplomatic corps had gathered tjiere in 
suavest mood, that good grotesque old woman with her unfailing talent 
for misrule, would have contrived to set every urbane minister of grace 
snarling for the other's blood before an hour had passed. And with that 
museum collection of freaks, embittered aesthetes and envenomed mis- 
fits of the arts, that did gather there, she never failed. Her genius for 
confusion and unrest was absolute. 

If there were two people in the community who had been destined 
from birth and by every circumstance of education, religious belief, and 
temperament, to hate each other with a murderous hatred the moment 
that they met, Miss Potter would see to it instantly that the introduction 
was effected. If Father Davin, the passionate defender of the faith, and 
the foe of modernism in all its hated forms, had been invited to one of 
Miss Potter's Friday afternoons, he would find himself shaking hands 
before he knew it with Miss Shanksworth, the militant propagandist 
for free love, sterilization of the unfit, and the unlimited practice of 
birth control by every one, especially the lower classes. 

If the editor of The Atlantic Monthly should be present, he would 
find himself, by that unerring drawing together of opposites which Miss 
Potter exercised with such accuracy, seated next to the person of one 
Sam Shulemovitch, who as leader and chief editorial writer of an 
organ known as Red Riot or The Worker's Dawn, had said frequently 
and with violence that the sooner The Atlantic Monthly was extin- 
guished, and its writers, subscribers, and editorial staff embalmed and 
put on exhibition in a museum, the better it would be for every one. 

If the radical leader who had just served a sentence in prison for his 
speeches, pamphlets, and physical aggressions against the police, or 
members of the capitalist class, should come to one of Miss Potter's Fri- 
day afternoons, he would find himself immediately debating the merits 
of the present system and the need for the swift extinction of the 
wealthy parasite with a maiden lady from Beacon Street who had a par- 
rot, two Persian kittens, and a Pekinese, three maids, a cook, a bucler, 


chauffeur and motor car, a place at Marblehead, and several thousand 
shares of Boston and Maine. 

And so it went, all up and down the line, at one of Miss Potter's 
Friday afternoons. There, in her house, you could be sure that if the 
lion and the lamb did not lie down together their hostess would seat 
them in such close proximity to each other that the ensuing slaughter 
would be made as easy, swift, and unadorned as possible. 

And as the sound of snarl and curse grew louder in the clamorous 
tumult of these Friday afternoons, as the face grew livid with its hate, 
as the eye began to glitter, and the vein to swell upon the temple, Miss 
Potter would look about her with triumphant satisfaction, seeing that 
her work was good, thinking with delight : 

"How stimulating! How fine it is to see so many interesting people 
together people who are really doing things! To see the flash and 
play of wit, to watch the clash of brilliant intellects, to think of all these 
fine young men and women have in common, and of the mutual bene- 
fits they will derive from contact with one another! ah-ha! What a 
delightful thing to see but who is this that just came " she would 
mutter, peering toward the door, for she was very near-sighted "who ? 
Who? O-oh! Professor Lawes of the Art Department oh, Professor 
Lawes, I'm so glad you could come. We have the most interesting 
young man here today Mr. Wilder, who painted that picture every 
one's talking about "Portrait of a Nude Falling Upon Her Neck in a 
Wet Bathroom" Mr. Wilder, this is Doctor Lawes, the author of 
Sanity and Tradition in the Renaissance I know you're going to find 
so much in common." 

And having done her duty, she would wheeze heavily away, looking 
around with her strange fixed grin and bulging eyes to see if she had 
left anything or anyone undone or whether there was still hope of 
some new riot, chaos, brawl, or bitter argument. 

And yet there was a kind of wisdom in her too, that few who came 
there to her house suspected: a kind of shrewdness in the fixed bulging 
stare of her old eyes that sometimes saw more than the others knew. 
Perhaps it was only a kind of instinct of tbe old woman's warm human- 
ity that made her speak to the fragile little man with burning eyes more 
gently than she spoke to others, to seat him on her right hand at the 
dinner table, and to say from time to time: "Give Mr. Ten Eyck some 
more of that roast beef. Oh, Mr. Ten Eyck, do you've hardly eaten 


And he, stretched out upon the rack of pride and all the bitter long- 
ing of his hunger, would crane convulsively at his collar and laugh with 
a note of feeble protest, saying "Well I don't know ... I really think 
... if you want me to. ... Oh! all right then," as a plate smoking 
with her lavish helping was placed before him, and would straight- 
way fall upon it with the voracity of a famished wolf. 

When Ten Eyck reached Miss Potter's on that final fateful Friday, the 
other guests were already assembled. Miss Thrall, a student of the 
woman's section of Professor Hatcher's course, was reading her own 
translation of a German play which had only recently been produced. 
Miss Potter's reception rooms which were two large gabled rooms on 
the top floor of her house, ruggedly festooned with enormous fishing 
nets secured from Gloucester fishermen were crowded with her motley 
parliament, and the whole gathering was discreetly hushed while the 
woman student read her play. 

It was a scene to warm the heart of any veteran of aesthetic parties. 
The lights were soft, shaded, quietly and warmly subdued : the higher 
parts of the room were pools of mysterious gloom from which the 
Gloucester fishing nets depended, but within the radius of the little 
lamps, one could see groups of people tastefully arranged in all the atti- 
tudes of rapt attentiveness. Some of the young women slouched dream- 
ily upon sofas, their faces and bodies leaning toward the reader with a 
yearning movement, other groups could be vaguely discerned leaning 
upon the grand piano, or elegantly slumped against the walls with 
tea-cups in their hands. Mr. Cram, the old composer, occupied a 
chosen seat on a fat sofa; he drew voluptuously on a moist cigarette 
which he held daintily between his dirty fingers, his hawk-like face 
turned meditatively away into the subtle mysteries of the fishing nets, 
From time to time he would thrust one dirty hand through the long 
sparse locks of his gray hair, and then draw deeply, thoughtfully on his 

Some of the young men were strewn about in pleasing postures on 
the floor, in attitudes of insouciant grace, gallantly near the ladies' legs, 
Ten Eyck entered, looked round like a frightened rabbit, ducked his 
head, and then sat down jack-knife fashion beside them. 

Miss Thrall sat on the sofa with the old composer, facing her audi- 
ence. The play that she was reading was one of the new German Ex- 
pressionist dramas, at that time considered one of "the most vital 


movements in the world theatre," and the young lady's translation 
of the play which bore the vigorous title of You Shall Be Free When 
You Have Cut Your Father's Throat, ran somewhat in this manner: 

Eletyra: (advancing a step to the top of the raised dais, her face blue with a 
ghastly light, and her voice low and hoarse with passion as she addresses the 
dark mass of men below her.) Listen, man! To you it is now proper that I 
speak must. Do you by any manner of means know who this woman who 
now before you speaking stands may be? (With a sudden swift movement 
she, the purple-reddish silk-stufT of the tunic which she wearing is, asunder 
in two pieces rips, her two breasts exposing.) 

(A low swiftly-growing-and-to-the-outer-edges-of-the-crowd-thunder-be- 
coming mutter of astonishment through the great crowd surges.) 

Elektra: '(Thunder louder becomes, and even with every moment growing 
yet) Elektra! (The sound to a mighty roar arisen has, and now from every 
throat is in a single shout torn.) ELEKTRA! 

Eletyra: (quietly) Ja! Man, thou hast said it. I am Elektra! 

The Crowd: (with from their throats an even-stronger roar yet) ELEK- 
TRA. It is Elektra! 

Eletyra: (her voice even lower and more hoarse becoming, her eyes with 
the red blood-pains of all her heart-grief with still greater love-sorrow at 
the man-mass gleaming.) Listen, man. Slaves, workers, the of your fathers 1 
sons not yet awakened hear! Out of the night-dark of your not yet born 
souls to deliver you have I come! So, hear! (Her voice even lower with the 
low blood-pain heart-hate hoarse becoming.) Tonight must you your old 
with-crime-blackcned and by-ignorance-blinded father's throat cut! I have 
spoken: so must it be. 

A Voice, Homunculus: (from the crowd, pleadingly, with protest.) Ach! 
Elektra! Spare us! Please! With the blood-lust malice-blinded your old 
father's throat to cut not mce is. 

Eletyra: (raising her arm with a cold imperious gesture of command.) 
As I have spoken, must it be! Silence! 

(Homunculus starts to interrupt: again she speaks, her voice more loud 
and stern becoming.) Silence! Silence! 

At this moment there was a loud and sibilant hiss from the door. 
Miss Potter, who had been on the point of entering the room, had been 
halted by the sight of Miss Thrall's arm uplifted in command and by the 
imperious coldness of her voice as she said "Silence!" Now as Miss 
Thrall stopped and looked up in a startled manner, Miss Potter, still 
hissing loudly, tip-toed ponderously into the room. The old woman ad- 
vanced with the grace of a hydroptic hippopotamus, laying her finger to 
her lips as she came on, looking all around her with her fixed grin and 
bulging eyes, and hissing loudly for the silence she had thus violently 
disrupted every time she laid her finger to her lips. 


Evjery one stared at her in a moment of blank and horrible fascination. 
As for Miss Thrall, she gaped at her with an expression of stupefaction 
which changed suddenly to a cry of alarm as Miss Potter, tiptoeing 
blindly ahead, barged squarely into the small crouched figure of Oswald 
Ten Eyck, and went plunging over him to fall to her knees with a 
crash that made the fish-nets dance, the pictures swing, and even drev/ 
a sympathetic resonant vibration from the polished grand piano. 

Then, for one never-to-be-forgotten moment, while every one stared 
at her in a frozen paralysis of horrified astonishment, Miss Potter stayed 
there on her knees, too stunned to move or breathe, her eyes bulging 
from her head, her face turned blindly upward in an attitude of gro- 
tesque devotion. Then as she began to gasp and cough with terror, Ten 
Eyck came to life. He fairly bounded off the floor, glanced round him 
like a startled cat, and spying a pitcher on a tray, rushed toward it wild- 
ly, seized it in his trembling hands, and attempted to pour a glass of 
water, most of which spilled out. He turned, still clutching the glass 
in his hand, and panting out "Here! Here! . . . Take this!" he rushed 
toward Miss Potter. Then, terrified by her apoplectic stare, he dashed 
the contents of the glass full in her face. 

A half dozen young men sprang to her assistance and lifted her to 
her feet. The play was forgotten, the whole gathering broke into ex- 
cited and clamorous talk, above which could be heard Miss Flitcroft's 
tart voice, saying sharply, as she whacked the frightened and dripping 
old woman on the back : 

"Nonsense! You're not! You're no such thing! . . . You're just 
frightened out of your wits, that's all that's the matter with you If you 
ever stopped to look where you were going, these things would never 


Both Oswald and Miss Potter had recovered by the time the guests 
were assembled round the table. As usual, Oswald found he had been 
seated on Miss Potter's right hand: and the feeling of security this gave 
him, together with the maddening fragrance of food, the sense of raven- 
ous hunger about to be appeased, filled him with an almost delirious joy, 
a desire to shout out, to sing. Instead, he stood nervously beside his 
chair, looking about with a shy and timid smile, passing his fingers 
through his hair repeatedly, waiting for the other guests to seat them- 
selves. Gallantly, he stood behind Miss Potter's chair, and pushed it un- 


der her as she sat down. Then, with a feeling of jubilant elation, he sat; 
down beside her and drew his chair up. He wanted to talk, to prove him- 
self a brilliant conversationalist, to surprise the whole gathering with 
his wit, his penetration, his distinguished ease. Above all, he wanted to 
eat and eat and eat! His head felt light and drunk and giddy, but glori- 
ously so he had never been so superbly confident in his life. And in 
this mood, he unfolded his napkin, and smiling brightly, turned to daz- 
zle his neighbor on his right with the brilliant effervescence of wit that 
already seemed to sparkle on his lips. One look, and the bright smile 
faded, wit and confidence fell dead together, his heart shrank instantly 
and seemed to drop out of his very body like a rotten apple. Miss Pot- 
ter had not failed. Her unerring genius for calamity had held out to the 
finish. He found himself staring into the poisonous face of the one per- 
son in Cambridge that he hated most the repulsive visage of the old 
composer, Cram. 

An old long face, yellowed with malevolence, a sudden fox-glint of 
small eyes steeped in a vitriol of ageless hate, a beak of cruel nose, and 
thin lips stained and hardened in a rust of venom, the whole craftily, 
slantingly astare between a dirty frame of sparse lank locks. Cackling 
with malignant glee, and cramming crusty bread into his mouth, the old 
composer turned and spoke : 

"Heh! Heh! Heh!" Crunch, crunch "It's Mister Ten Eyck, isn't 
it ? The man who wrote that play Professor Hatcher put on at his last 
performance that mystical fantasy kind of thing. That was your play, 
wasn't it?" 

The old yellow face came closer, and he snarled in a kind of gloating 
and vindictive whisper: "Most of the audience hated it! They thought 
it very bad, sir very bad!" Crunch, crunch. "I am only telling you be- 
cause I think you ought to know that you may profit by the criticism." 

And Ten Eyck, hunger gone now, shrank back as if a thin poisoned 
blade had been driven in his heart and twisted there. "I I I thought 
some of them rather liked it. Of course I don't know I can't say " he 
faltered hesitantly, "but I I really thought some of the audience liked 


"Well, they didn't," the composer snarled, still crunching on his crust 
of bread. "Every one that I saw thought that it was terrible. Heh! Heh! 
Heh! Heh! Except my wife and I " Crunch, crunch. "We were the 
only ones who thought that it was any good at all, the only ones who 
thought there would ever be any hope for you. And we found parts of 


it a phrase or sentence here and there now and then a scene that 
we lifted. As for the rest of them," he suddenly made a horrible down- 
ward gesture with a clenched fist and pointing thumb, "it was thumbs 
down, my boy! Done for! No good. . . . That's what they thought of 
you, my boy. And that," he snarled suddenly, glaring round him, 
"that is what they've thought of me all these years of me, the greatest 
composer that they have, the man who has done more for the cause of 
American music than all the rest of them combined me! me! me! the 
prophet and the seer!" he fairly screamed, "thumbs down! Done for! 
No good any more!" 

Then he grew suddenly quiet, and leaning toward Ten Eyck with a 
gesture of horrible clutching intimacy, he whispered : "And that's what 
they'll always think of you, my boy of any one who* has a grain of 
talent Heh! Heh ! Heh! Heh!" Peering into Ten Eyck's white face, he 
shook him gently by the arm, and cackled softly a malevolent tenderness, 
as if the evidence of the anguish that his words had caused had given him 
a kind of paternal affection for his victim. "That's what they said about 
your play, all right, but don't take it too seriously. It's live and learn, 
my boy, isn't it profit by criticism a few hard knocks will do you no 
harm. Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh!" 

And turning, satisfied with the anguish he had caused, he thrust out 
his yellowed face with a vulture's movement of his scrawny neck, and 
smacking his envenomed lips with relish, drew noisily inward with 
slobbering suction on a spoon of soup. 

As for Ten Eyck, all hunger now destroyed by his sick shame and hor* 
ror and despair, he turned, began to toy nervously with his food, and 
forcing his pale lips to a trembling and uncertain smile, tried desperately 
to compel his brain to pay attention to something that was being said by 
the man across the table who was the guest of honor for the day, and 
whose name was Hunt. 

Hunt had been well-known for his belligerent pacifism during the 
war, had been beaten by the police and put in jail more times than he 
could count, and now that he was temporarily out of jail, he was carry- 
ing on his assault against organized society with more ferocity than 
ever. He was a man of undoubted courage and deep sincerity, but the 
suffering he had endured, and the brutal intolerance of which he had 
been the victim, had left its mutilating mark upon his life. His face 
was somehow like a scar, and his cut, cruel-looking mouth could twist 


like a snake to the corner of his face when he talked. And his voice 
was harsh and jeering, brutally dominant and intolerant, when he spoke 
to any one, particuarly if the one he spoke to didn't share his opinions. 

On this occasion, Miss Potter, with her infallible talent for error, had 
seated next to Hunt a young Belgian student at the university, who had 
little English, but a profound devotion to the Roman Catholic Church. 
Within five minutes, the two were embroiled in a bitter argument, the 
Belgian courteous, but desperately resolved to defend his faith, and be- 
cause of his almost incoherent English as helpless as a lamb before the 
attack of Hunt, who went for him with the rending and pitiless sav- 
agery of a tiger. It was a painful thing to watch: the young man, 
courteous and soft-spoken, his face flushed with embarrassment and 
pain, badly wounded by the naked brutality of the other man's assault. 

As Ten Eyck listened, his spirit began to emerge from the blanket of 
shame and sick despair that had covered it, a spark of anger and resent- 
ment, hot and bright, began to glow, to burn, to spread. His large dark 
eyes were shining now with a deeper, fiercer light than they had had 
before, and on his pale cheeks there was a flush of angry color. And 
now he no longer had to force himself to listen to what Hunt was saying: 
anger had fanned his energy and his interest to a burning flame, he 
listened tensely, his ears seemed almost to prick forward on his head, 
from time to time he dug his fork viciously into the table cloth. Once 
or twice, it seemed that he would interrupt. He cleared his throat, bent 
forward, nervously clutching the table with his claw-like hands, but 
each time ended up thrusting his fingers through his mop of hair, and 
gulping down a glass of wine. 

As Hunt talked, his voice grew so loud in its rasping arrogance that 
every one at the table had to stop and listen, which was what he most de- 
sired. And there was no advantage, however unjust, which the man did 
not take in this bitter argument with the young Belgian. He spoke 
jeeringly of the fat priests of the old corrupt church, fattening themselves 
on the blood and life of the oppressed workers; he spoke of the bigotry, 
oppression, and superstition of religion, and of the necessity for the 
workers to destroy this monster which was devouring them. And when 
the young Belgian, in his faltering and painful English, would try to 
reply to these charges, Hunt would catch him up on his use of words, 
pretend to be puzzled at his pronunciation, and bully him brutally in this 

"You think what? . . . What? ... I don't understand what you're say- 


ing half the time. . . . It's very difficult to talk to a man who can't spe< 
decent English." 

"I vas say ink," the young Belgian would answer slowly and pai 
fully, his face flushed with embarrassment " vas say ink zat- 
sink zat you ex ack sher ate " 

"That I what? What? What is he trying to say, anyway?" d 
manded Hunt, brutally, looking around the table as if hoping to recer 
interpretation from the other guests. "Oh-h!" he cried suddenly, as 
the Belgian's meaning had just dawned on him. "Exaggerate! Thai 
the word you're trying to say!" and he laughed in an ugly manner. 

Oswald Ten Eyck had stopped eating and turned white as a she< 
Now he sat there, looking across in an agony of tortured sympathy 
the young Belgian, biting his nails nervously, and thrusting his han< 
through his hair in a distracted manner. The resentment and ang 
that he had felt at first had now burned to a white heat of chokin 
murderous rage. The little man was taken out of himself entirely. Su 
denly his sense of personal wrong, the humiliation and pain he had hir 
self endured, was fused with a white-hot anger of resentment for evei 
injustice and wrong that had ever been done to the wounded soul of ma 
United by that agony to a kind of savage fellowship with the young B( 
gian, with the insulted and the injured of the earth, of whatsoev< 
class or creed, that burning coal of five feet five flamed in one witherir 
blaze of wrath, and hurled the challenge of its scorn at the oppressor. 

The thing happened like a flash. At the close of one of Hunt's jee 
ing tirades, Ten Eyck jumped from his chair, and leaning half aero 
the table, cried out in a high shrill voice that cut into the silence like 
knife : 

"Hunt! You are a swine, and every one who ever had anything to c 
with you is likewise a swine!" For a moment he paused, breathing har 
clutching his napkin in a bony hand. Slowly his feverish eyes wei 
round the table, and suddenly, seeing the malevolent stare of the ol 
composer Cram fixed upon him, he hurled the wadded napkin dow 
and pointing a trembling finger at that hated face, he screamed: "An 
that goes for you as well, you old bastard! ... It goes for all the rest < 
you," he shrieked, gesturing wildly. "Hunt . . . Cram! Cram I . . 
God!" he cried, shaking with laughter. "There's a name for you! ... It 
perfect. . . . Yes, you! You swine!" he yelled again, thrusting his fing< 
at Cram's yellowed face so violently that the composer scrambled bac 
with a startled yelp. "And all the rest of you!" he pointed towards Mi 


Thrall "You the Expressionist!" And he paused, racked terribly 
again by soundless laughter "The Greeks the Russians Oh, how we 
love in Spain! and fantasy why, Goddam my soul to hell, but it's 
delightful!" he fairly screamed, and then pointing a trembling finger at 
several in succession he yelled "You? And you? And you? What 
the hell do you know about anything? . . . Ibsen Chekov the Celtic 
Dawn Balls!" he snarled, "Food! Food! Food! you Goddam fools! 
. . . That's all that matters." He picked up a morsel of his untouched 
bread and hurled it savagely upon the table "Food! Food! Ask 
Cram he knows. . . . Now," he said, panting for breath and pointing a 
trembling finger at Miss Potter "Now," he panted, "I want to tell you 

"Oh . . . Mr. . . . Ten . . . Eyck," the old woman faltered in a tone of 
astonished reproach, "I ... never . . . believed it possible . . . you 
could -" 

Her voice trailed off helplessly, and she looked at him. 

And Ten Eyck, suddenly brought to himself by the bulging stare of 
that good old creature fixed on him with wounded disbelief, suddenly 
laughed again, shrilly and hysterically, thrust his fingers through his hair* 
looked about him at the other people whose eyes were fixed on him in a 
stare of focal horror, and said in a confused, uncertain tone: "Well, I 
don't know I'm always I guess I said something that oh, damn it, 
what's the use!" and with a desperate, stricken laugh, he slumped sud- 
denly into his chair, craned convulsively at his collar, and seizing a de- 
canter before him poured out a glass of wine with trembling haste and 
gulped it down. 

Meanwhile, all around the table people began to talk with that kind 
of feverish eagerness that follows a catastrophe of this sort, and Hunt re- 
sumed his arguments, but this time in a much quieter tone, and with a 
kind of jeering courtesy, accompanying his remarks from time to time 
with a heavy sarcasm directed toward Ten Eyck "If I may say so- 
since, of course, Mr. Ten Eyck considers me a swine" or "if you will 
pardon such a remark from a swine like me" or "as Mr. Ten Eyck 
has told you I am nothing but a swine," and so on. 

The upshot of it was that Ten Eyck gulped down glass after glass of 
the strong wine, which raced instantly through his frail starved body 
like a flame. 

He got disgracefully drunk, sang snatches of bawdy songs, screamed 
with maudlin laughter, and began to pound enthusiastically on the 


table, shaking his head to himself and shouting from time to time: 

"You're right, Hunt! . . . God-damn it, man, you're right! . . . Go on! 
... Go on! I agree with you! You're right! Everybody else is wrong 
but Hunt and Cram! . . . Words by Hunt, music by Cram ... no one's 
right but Hunt and Cram!" 

They tried to quiet him, but in vain. Suddenly Miss Potter began to 
cough and choke and gasp, pressed both hands over her heart, and 
gasped out in a terror-stricken voice: 

"Oh, my God, I'm dying!" 

Miss Flitcroft jumped to her feet and came running to her friend's 
assistance, and then while Miss Flitcroft pounded the old woman on her 
back, and the guests scrambled up in a general disruption of the party, 
Oswald Ten Eyck staggered to the window, flung it open, and looking 
out across one of the bleak snow-covered squares of Cambridge, 
screamed at the top of his voice : 

"Relentless! . . . Relentless! . . . Juh'sweez un art-e-e-este!" Here he 
beat on his little breast with a claw-like hand and yelled with drunken 
laughter, "And, Goddamn it, I will always be relentless . . . relentless 
. . . relentless!" 

The cool air braced him with its cleansing shock : for a moment, the 
fog of shame and drunkenness shifted in his brain, he felt a vacancy of 
cold horror at his back, and turning suddenly found himself confronted 
by the frozen circle of their faces, fixed on him. And even in that in- 
stant glimpse of utter ruin, as the knowledge of this final castastrophe 
was printed on his brain, over the rim of frozen faces he saw the dial- 
hands of a clock. The time was seven-fifty-two : he knew there was a 
train at midnight for New York and work, food, freedom, and forget- 
fulness. He would have four hours to go home and pack: if he hurried 
he could make it. 

Little was heard of him thereafter. It was rumored that he had gone 
back to his former lucrative employment with Mr. Hearst: and Professor 
Hatcher smiled thinly when he heard the news; the young men looked 
at one another with quiet smiles. 

And yet he could not wholly be forgotten: occasionally some one 
mentioned him. 

"A strange case, wasn't it?" said Mr. Grey. "Do you remember how 
he looked? Like . . . like . . . really, he was like some mediaeval ascetic. 
I thought he had something. I thought he would do something ... I 


really did, you know! And then heavens! that last play!" He tossed 
his cigarette away with a movement of dismissal. "A strange case," he 
said with quiet finality. "A man who looked as if he had it and who 
turned out all belly and no brain." 

There was silence for a moment while the young men smoked. 

"I wonder what it was," another said thoughtfully at length. "What 
happened to him ? I wonder why." 

There was no one there who knew the answer. The only one on earth, 
perhaps, who could have given it was that curious old spinster named 
Miss Potter. For blind to many things that all these clever young men 
knew, that good grotesque old empress of confusion still had a wisdom 
that none of them suspected. But Miss Potter was no longer there to tell 
them, even if she could. She had died that spring. 

Later it seemed to Gene that the cold and wintry light of desolation 
the red waning light of Friday in the month of March shone forever 
on the lives of all the people. And forever after, when he thought of 
them, their lives, their faces and their words all that he had seen and 
known of them would be fused into a hopeless, joyless image which 
was somehow consonant to that accursed wintry light that shone upon 
it. And this was the image: 

He was standing upon the black and grimy snow of winter before 
Miss Potter's house, saying good-bye to a group of her invited guests. 
The last red wintry light of Friday afternoon fell on their lives and 
faces as he talked to them, and made them hateful to him, and yet he 
searched those faces and talked desperately to see if he could find there 
any warmth or love or joy, any ring of hope for himself which would 
tell him that his sick heart and leaden spirit would awake to life and 
strength again, that he would get his hands again on life and love and 
labor, and that April would come back again. 

But he found nothing in these cold and hateful faces but the lights of 
desolation, the deadly and corrupt joy that took delight in its own 
death, and breathed, without any of the agony and despair he felt, the 
poisonous ethers of its own dead world. In those cold hateful faces as 
that desolate and wintry light fell on them he could find no hope for his 
own life or the life of living men. Rather, he read in their pale faces, 
and in their rootless and unwholesome lives, which had come to have for 
him the wilted yellow pallor of nameless and unuseful plants such as 
flourish under barrels, a kind of cold malicious triumph, a momentary 


gleam in pale fox eyes, which said that they looked upon his desperate 
life and knew the cause of his despair, and felt a bitter triumph over it. 
The look on their cold faces and in their fox eyes said to him that there 
was no hope, no work, no joy, no triumph, and no love for such as he, 
that there could be nothing but defeat, despair and failure for the living 
of this world, that life had been devoured and killed by such as these, 
and had become rat's alley, death-in-life forever. 

And yet he searched their hated faces desperately in that cold red light, 
he sought frantically in their loathed faces for a ray of hope, and in his 
drowning desolation shameful words were wrenched from him against 
his will words of entreaty, pleading, pitiful begging for an alms of 
mercy, a beggarly scrap of encouragement, even a word of kindly 
judgment on his life, from these cold and hateful faces that he loathed. 

"But my work this last work that I did don't you think didn't it 
seem to you that there was something good in it not much, perhaps, 
but just enough to give me hope? . . . Don't you think if I go on I may 
do something good some day for God's sake, tell me if you do? or 
must I die here in this barren and accursed light of Friday afternoon}, 
must I drown and smother in this poisonous and lifeless air, wither in 
this rootless, yellow, barren earth below the barrel, die like a mad-dog 
howling in the wilderness, with the damned, cold, hateful sneer of your 
impotent lives upon me? 

"Tell me, in God's name, man, is there no life on earth for such as I ? 
Has the world been stripped for such as you? Have all joy, hope, health, 
sensual love, and warmth and tenderness gone out of life are living 
men the false men, then, and is all truth and work and wisdom owned by 
rat's alley and the living dead such as yourself ? For God's sake, tell me 
if there is no hope for me! Let me have the worst, the worst, I beg of 
you. Is there nothing for me now but the gray gut, the sick heart, and 
the leaden spirit ? Is there nothing now but Friday afternoon in March, 
Miss Potter's parties, and your damned poisonous, sterile, cold, life-hating 
faces ? For God's sake tell me now if I am no good, am false while you, 
the living dead, are true and had better cut my throat or blow my 
brains out than stay on longer in this world of truth, where joy is dead, 
and only the barren rootless lives of dead men live! In God's name, 
tell me now, if this is true or do you find a rag of hope for me?" 

"Ah," the old composer Cram would answer, arranging the folds 
of his dirty scarf, and peering out malevolently underneath his sparse 
lank webs of dirty gray, as the red and wintry light fell hopelessly on 


his poisonous old face. " Ah-h," he rasped bitterly, " my wife and 
I liked some things in that play of yours that Professor Hatcher put on 
in his Playshop. . . . My wife and I liked one or two speeches in that 
play," he rasped, "but" for a moment a fox's glittering of malevolent 
triumph shone in his eyes as he drove the fine blade home " no one else 
did! No one else thought it was any good at all!" he cackled malevo- 
lently. "I heard people saying all around me that they hated it," he 
gloated, " that you had no talent, no ability to write, and had better go 
back where you came from live some other kind of life or \ill your- 
self," he gloated "That's the way it is, my boy! Nothing but defeat 
and misery and despair for such as you in life! . . . That has been my lot, 
too," he cackled vindictively, rubbing his dry hands in glee. "They've 
always hated what I did if I ever did anything good I was lucky if I 
found two people who liked it. The rest of them hated it," he whispered 
wildly. "There's no hope for you so die, die, die," he whispered, and 
cackling with malevolent triumph, he rubbed his dry hands gleefully. 

"Meeker, for God's sake," the boy cried, turning to the elegant figure 
of the clergyman, who would be carefully arranging around his damned 
luxurious neck the rich folds of a silk blue scarf "Meeker, do you feel 
this way about it, too ? ... Is that your opinion ? . . . Do you find noth- 
ing good in what I do?" 

"You see, old chap, it's this way," Meeker answered, in his soft 
voice, and drew with languor on one of his expensive straw-tipped 
cigarettes "You have lots of ability, I am sure" here he paused to in- 
hale meditatively again "but don't you think, old boy, it's critical 
rather than creative ? now with Jim here it's different," he continued, 
placing one hand affectionately on Hogan's narrow shoulders "Jim 
here's a great genius like Shelley with a great gift waiting for the 
world" Here Hogan lowered his pale weak face with a simpering 
smile of modesty, but not before the boy had seen the fox's glitter of 
vindictive triumph in his pale dull eyes "but you have nothing of that 
sort to give. Why don't you try to make the best of what you have?" he 
said with hateful sympathetic urbanity and put the cigarette to elegant 
and reflective lips again. 

"Hogan," the boy cried hoarsely, turning to the poet," is that your 
answer, too ? Have you no word of hope for me ? but no, you damned, 
snivelling, whining upstart you are gloating at your rotten little 
triumph, aren't you? I'd get nothing out of you, would I?" 

"Come on, Jim," said Meeker quietly. "He's becoming abusive. . . . 


The kind of attack you make is simply stupid," he now said. "It will get 
you nowhere." 

"And so raucous so raucous," said Hogan, smirking nervously. "It 
means nothing." 

And the three hated forms of death would go away then rapidly, 
snickering among themselves, and he would turn again, filled with the 
death of life, the end of joy, again, again, to prowl the wintry, barren, 
and accursed streets of Friday night. 


IT had been almost two years since Eugene had last seen Robert 
Weaver, but now, by one of those sudden hazards of blind chance that 
for a moment bring men's lives together, and in an instant show them 
more than years together could have done, he was to see the other youth 

One night in his second year at Cambridge he was reading in his room 
at about two o'clock in the morning, at the heart and core of the brooding 
silence of night that had come to mean so much to him, and that had 
the power to stir him as no other time of day could do with a feeling of 
swelling and exultant joy. The house had gone to sleep long before and 
there was no sound anywhere: it was late in winter, along in March, and 
the ice and snow had been packed and frozen on the earth for months 
with a kind of weary permanence with a tenacity that gave to winter a 
harsh and dreary reality, a protraction of gray days and grim gray light 
which made the memory of other seasons, and particularly the hope of 
spring, remote and almost unbelievable. The street outside was frozen 
in this living and animate silence of great cold: suddenly this still per 
fection of night and darkness was shattered by the engines of a powerful 
motor which turned into the end of the street from Massachusetts Ave 
nue, and tore along before the house at drunken speed with a roaring 
explosion of sound. Then, without slacking its speed, the brakes were 
jammed on, the car skidded murderously to a hajt on the slippery pave- 
ment, and immediately backed up at full speed until it came before xhe 
house again, skidded to a halt and was abruptly silent. 

Some one got out with the same violent impatience, slammed the door, 
and then for a moment, he could hear him hunting along the street, 
swearing and muttering to himself, at length he came back to the house, 
started up the steps on which he slipped or stumbled and fell heavily, 


after which he heard Robert cursing in a tone of hoarse and feverish dis- 
content: "The God-damnedest place I ever saw. . . . Did they never 
hear of a light around here ? . . . Who the hell would want to live in a 
place like this?" 

He began to hammer at the front door and to bawl out Eugene's name 
at the top of his voice: then he came up outside his windows and began 
to knock on the glass impatiently with his fist. Eugene went to the door 
and let him in: he entered the room without a word, and with the intent 
driving movement of a man who is very drunk, then he looked at him 
scornfully and accusingly, and barked out: "What time do you go to 
bed? . . . Do you stay up all night? . . . What do you do, sleep all 
morning?" . . . He looked around the room: the floor was strewn with 
books he had been reading and littered with pieces of paper on which he 
had been writing. Robert broke into his sudden, hoarse, falsetto laugh : 
"The damndest place I ever saw!" he said. "Do you sleep on that thing?" 
he said contemptuously, pointing to his cot bed which stood along the 
wall in one corner of the room. 

"No, Robert," he said, "I sleep on the floor. I use that for an ice box." 

"What's that in the corner?" Robert asked pointing to some dirty 
shirts he had thrown there. "Shirts ? . . . How long has it been since you 
sent anything to the laundry ? . . . What do you do when you want a shirt, 
go out and buy one ? . . . Do you ever take a bath ? . . . Have you had 
a bath since you came to Harvard?" He laughed suddenly, hoarsely and 
wildly again, hurled himself into a chair, sighed sharply with a weary 
and impatient discontent, began to pass his hand across his forehead 
with an abstracted and weary movement, and said, "Lord! Lord! Lord! 
. . . The things I've done!" he shook his head mournfully. "Why it's 
awful," he said, and he started to shake his head again. 

"Why don't you try to talk a little louder?" Eugene suggested. "I 
think there are a few people over in South Boston who haven't heard 
you yet." 

He laughed, hoarsely and abruptly, and then resumed his abstracted 
and repentant shaking of the head, sighing heavily from time to time 
and saying, "Lord!" 

It was the first time Eugene had seen Robert in two years. Under the 
hard light that he kept burning in his room he now looked closely at him : 
he wore a derby hat that became his small lean head well, and he had on 
a magnificent fur coat, such as the rich Harvard boys wear, that came 
down almost to his shoe-tops. For the rest, he was quietly and elc- 


gantly tailored with the distinction he had always seemed to get into 
his clothes there was always, even in his boyhood, a kind of formal 
dignity in his dress: he always wore a stiff, starched collar. 

Robert's face had grown thinner, he looked haggard and a good deal 
older: the lines of his sharp, incisive features were more deeply cut and 
his eyes, now injected and bloodshot from heavy drinking, were more 
wild and feverish in their restless discontent than they had ever been he 
seemed to be lashed and driven by a savage and desperate hunger which 
he could neither satisfy nor articulate: he was being consumed and torn 
to pieces by a torment of desire and longing, the cause of which he 
could not define, and which he had no means to assuage or quench. 

He had a bottle half filled with whiskey in the pocket of his fur coat : he 
took it out and offered Eugene a drink and after he had drunk, he put the 
bottle to his lips and gulped down all that remained in a single draught. 
Then he flung the empty bottle away impatiently on the table: it was 
obvious that the liquor, instead of giving him some peace or comfort, 
acted as savagely and immediately as oil poured on the tumult of a rag- 
ing fire it fed and spurred the madness in him and gave him no release 
until he had drunk himself into a state of paralysis and stupefaction. 
He was one of those men for whom alcohol was a fatal and uncontrol- 
lable stimulant: having once drawn the cork from a bottle and tasted his 
first drink he was then powerless to resist or stop: he drank until he 
could drink no more, and he would beg, fight, lie, cheat, crawl or walk 
or incur any desperate risk or danger to get more drink. Yet, he told 
Eugene that until his twenty-first year he had never tasted liquor: he 
began to drink during his last year in college, and during the two years 
that followed he had gone far on the road toward alcoholism. 

Eugene asked him how he had found out where he lived and, still pass- 
ing his hand across his forehead, he answered in an impatient and ab- 
stracted tone: "Oh ... I don't know. . . . Some one told me, I guess. 
... I think it was Arthur Kittrell," and then he fell to shaking his head 
again, and saying, "Awful! awful! awful! . . . Do you know how much 
money I've spent so far this year. . . . Forty-eight hundred dollars. . . . 
So help me God, I hope I may die if I'm not telling you the truth! Why 
it's awful!" he said, and burst into a laugh. 

"Have you travelled around a lot?" Gene asked. 

"Have I ? My God, I've spent only one week-end in New Haven since 
the beginning of the year," he said. "Why it's terrible! ... Do you 
know who I'm rooming with?" he demanded. 



"Andy Westerman," he said impressively and then, as the name com- 
municated none of its significance to Gene, he added impatiently : "Why 
you've heard of the Westermans, haven't you ? . . . My God, what have 
you been doing all your life? . . . You've heard of the Westerman 
vacuum cleaners and electric refrigerators, haven't you ? . . . Why, he's 
worth $20,000,000 if he's worth a cent! . . . The craziest man that ever 
lived!" he said, breaking suddenly into a sharp recollective laugh. 

"Who? Westerman?" 

"No. . . . My room-mate . . . that damned Andy Westerman. . . . 
Do you want to meet him?" 

"Is he up here with you?" 

"Why, that's what I'm telling you," he said impatiently. 

"Where is he?" 

"I don't know," said Robert with a laugh. "In jail by now, I reckon. 
... I left him down at the Copley Plaza an hour ago stopping every 
one who came in and asking him if he'd ever been to Harvard. . . . 
If the man said yes, Andy would haul off and hit him as hard as he 
could. . . . God! the craziest man!" he said. Then, in a feverish staccato 
monolog, he continued: "The damnedest story you ever heard. . . . 
You never heard anything like the way I met him in your life. . . . 
Passed right out in the gutter on Park Avenue one night. . . . All alone. 
. . . They'd given me knockout drops in some joint and robbed me. 
. . . Waked up in the most magnificent apartment you ever saw in your 
life. . . . Most beautiful woman you ever saw sitting right there on the 
bed holding my hand. . . . Andy Westerman's sister. . . . God! they've 
got stuff in that place that cost a fortune. . . . They've got one picture 
that the old man paid a hundred thousand dollars for. . . . Damned 
little thing that doesn't take up a foot of space. . . . Twenty million 
dollars! Yes, sir! ... And those two get it all. . . . Why, it'll ruin me!" 
he burst out. "It takes every cent I can get to keep up with 'em. . . . 
My God! I never saw a place like this in my life! . . . These people up 
here think no more of spending a thousand- dollars than we'd think of 
fifty cents down home. . . . God! I've got to do something. . . . I've 
got to get money somehow. . . . Yes, sir, Robert is going to be right up 
there among them. . . . Apartment on Park Avenue and everything. 
. . . God! that's the most beautiful woman in the world! All I want is 
to sleep with her just once. . . . Yes, sir, just once. . . . 

"And to think that she'd go and throw herself away on that damned! 


consumptive little . . .!" he fairly ground his teeth together, turned away 
abruptly, and did not finish. 

"Throw herself away on who? Who is this, Robert?" 

"Ah-h! that damned little fellow Upshaw that she's married to: been 
waiting praying hoping that he'd die for months she'll marry me 
just as soon as he's out of the way and he knows it! The damned little 
rat!" He gnashed his teeth savagely. "He's hanging on just as long as he 
can to spite us!" And he cursed bitterly, with a terrible unconscious 
humor, against a man who was too stubborn to oblige him by an early 

Then he jumped up and said abruptly: "Do you want to go to New 
York with me?" 


"Right now!" said Robert. "I'm ready to go this very minute. Come 
on!" and he started impatiently toward the door. 

When Eugene made no move to follow him, he turned and came back; 
saying in a resentful tone: "Well, are you coming, or are you just trying 
to bluff about it?" 

For a moment, the boy was infected by the other's madness, too near 
akin to his own ever to be wholly strange to him. The prospect of that 
reckless, drunken, purposeless flight through darkness towards the magic 
city held him with hypnotic power. Then, rudely, painfully, he broke 
the spell and answered curtly: 

"I wouldn't go as far as Harvard Square with you tonight, Robert, 
Not if you're going to drive that car. You're too drunk to know what 
you're doing and you'll have a smash-up as sure as you live if you try to 

He was, in fact, wildly and dangerously drunk by now and Eugene 
began to think of some way of persuading him to go to sleep and of 
finding some place where he could spend the night: in his own room 
there was only a single cot, and it was too late to rouse the Murphys 
they had been in bed for hours. Then he remembered that Mr. Wang had 
an extra couch in one of his .rooms: it was a very comfortable one and he 
did not think that Wang would make any objection to Robert's sleep- 
ing there if he explained the situation to him. Therefore, he cautioned 
Robert to keep quiet, and went to Wang's door and knocked. Presently 
he appeared sleepily, thrusting out his fat, drowsy, and troubled face to 
see what the trouble was: when Eugene told him he agreed very gener- 
ously and readily to let Robert sleep upon the couch and thus the voune 


man got him settled at length although not before the sudden apparition 
of a dragon with a scaly tail one of the drawings that hung above the 
couch had wrested from him a howl of terror: he had sprung out of 
bed and rushed out of Wang's apartment and into Eugene's, saying 
hoarsely, and in a tone of frightened indignation : "Do you expect me to 
spend the night alone in there with that damned Chinaman and his 
dragon ? . . . How do I know what he'll do ? ... One of those people 
would cut your throat while you're asleep and think nothing of it. ... 
I'm not going to stay in there." Gene finally persuaded him of Wang's 
innocence and kindness, and at length he went of? to sleep after drink- 
ing the better part of a bottle of Wang's rice wine. 


ONE Sunday morning early in the month of May, Starwick and 
Eugene had crossed the bridge that led to the great stadium, and turned 
right along a path that followed the winding banks of the Charles River. 
Spring had come with the sudden, almost explosive loveliness that marks 
its coming in New England : along the banks of the river the birch trees 
leaned their slender, white and beautiful trunks, and their boughs were 
coming swiftly into the young and tender green of May. 

That spring which, for Eugene, would be the second and last of his 
years in Cambridge Starwick had become more mannered in his dress 
and style than ever before. During the winter, much to Professor 
Hatcher's concern a concern which constantly became more troubled 
and which he was no longer able to conceal the darling protege on 
whom his bounty and his favor had been lavished, and to whom, he 
had fondly hoped, he would one day pass on the proud authorities of his 
own position when he himself should become too old to carry on "the 
work," had begun to wear spats and carry a cane and be followed by 
a dog. 

Now, with the coming of spring, Frank had discarded the spats, but 
as they walked along beside the Charles, he twirled his elegant light stick 
with an air of languid insouciance, interrupting his conversation with his 
friend now and then to speak sharply to the little dog that frisked and 
scampered along as if frantic with the joy of May, crying out to the 
little creature sharply, commandingly, and in a rather womanish tone 
from time to time: 

"Heel, Tang! Heel, I say!" 


And the dog, a shaggy little terrier the gift of some wealthy and 
devoted friends of Frank's on Beacon Hill would pause abruptly in its 
frisking, turn its head, and look towards its owner with the attentive, 
puzzled, and wistfully inquiring look that dogs and little children have, 
as if to say : "What is it, master ? Are you pleased with me or have I 
done something that was wrong?" 

And in a moment, in response to Frank's sharper and more peremp- 
tory command, the little dog, with a crestfallen and somewhat apologetic 
look, would scamper back from its wild gaieties along the green banks 
of the Charles, to trot meekly along the path behind the two young men, 
until its exuberant springtime spirits got the best of it again. 

From time to time, they would pass other students, in pairs or groups, 
striding along the pleasant path; and when these young men saw Star- 
wick twirling his stick and speaking to the little dog, they would grin 
broadly at each other, and stare curiously at Starwick as they passed. 

Once Starwick paused to call "Heel!" sharply to the little dog at the 
very moment it had lifted its leg against a tree, and the dog, still holding 
its leg up, had looked inquiringly around at Starwick with such a wist- 
ful look that some students who were passing had burst out in hearty 
laughter. But Starwick, although the color of his ruddy face deepened 
a shade, had paid no more attention to these ruffians than if they had 
been scum in the gutter. Rather, he snapped his fingers sharply, and 
cried, "Heel!" again, at which the little dog left its tree and came trotting 
meekly back to its obedient position. 

Suddenly, while one of these episodes was being enacted, Eugene 
heard the bright wholesome tones of a familiar voice, and turning 
around with a startled movement, found himself looking straight into 
the broad and beaming countenance of Effie Horton, and her husband 

"Well!" Effie was saying in her rich bright voice of Iowa. "Look who's 
here! I thought those long legs looked familiar," she went on in her tone 
of gay and lightsome, and yet wholesome, banter, "even from a distance! 
I told Pooly " this, for an unknown reason, was the affectionate nick- 
name by which Horton was known to his wife, and all his friends from 
Iowa "I told Pooly that there was only one pair of legs as long as that 
in Cambridge. 'It must be Eugene,' I said. Yes, sir!" she went on 
brightly, shaking her head with a little bantering movement, her broad 
and wholesome face shining with good nature all the time. "It is Eugene 
and my I tr>y! my! I just wish you'd look at him," she went on gaily, 


in her tones of full rich fellowship and banter in which, however, a trace 
af something ugly, envious, and mocking was evident "all dressed up 
in his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes out for a walk this fine morning 
just to give the pretty girls a treat! Yes, sir!" she cried again, shaking 
her head in wondering admiration, and with an air of beaming satis- 
faction, "I'll bet you that's just what he's going to do." 

He flushed, unable to think of an apt reply to this good-natured banter, 
beneath whose hearty good-fellowship he felt the presence of some- 
thing that was false, ugly, jeering and curiously tormented, and while 
he was blundering out a clumsy greeting, Horton, laughing with lazy 
good-nature at his confusion, slapped him on the back and said : 

"How are yuh, kid ? . . . Where the hell have you been keeping your- 
self, anyway?" 

The tone was almost deliberately coarse and robust in its hearty mas- 
culinity, but beneath it one felt the same false and spurious quality that 
had been evident in the woman's tone. 

"And here is Mister Starwick!" Effie now cried brightly. " And I 
wish you'd loofyj" she went on, as if enraptured by the spectacle "all 
dressed up with a walking stick and a dog and yes, sir!" she exclaimed 
ecstatically, after an astonished examination of Frank's sartorial splendor 
* "wearing a bee-yew-teejul brown tweed suit that looks as if it just 
came out of the shop of a London tailor! . . . My! My! My! ... I tell 
you!" she went on admiringly "I just wish the folks back home could 
see us now, Pooly " 

Horton laughed coarsely, with apparent good nature, but with an 
ugly jeering note in his voice. 

" I just wish they could see us now!" she said. "It's not every one 
can say they knew two London swells and here they are Mr. Starwick 
with his cane and his dog and Eugene with his new suit yes, #V7 
and talking to us just as if we were their equals." 

Eugene flushed, and then with a stiff and inept sarcasm, said: 

"I'll try not to let it make any difference between us, Effie." 

Horton laughed coarsely and heartily again, with false good nature, 
and then smote the boy amiably on the back, saying: 

"Don't let her kid you, son! Tell her to go to hell if she gets fresh with 

" And how is Mr. Starwick these fine days!" cried Effie gaily, now 
directing the artillery of her banter at his unworthy person "Where is 
that great play we've all been waiting for so eagerly for lo these manjr 


years! I tell you!" she exclaimed with rich conviction "I'm going to be 
right there on the front row the night it opens up on Broadway! I know 
that a play that has taken any one so many years will be a masterpiece 
every word pure gold I don't want to miss a word o it." 

"Quite!" said Starwick coldly, in his mannered and affected tone. His 
ruddy face had flushed crimson with embarrassment; turning, he called 
sharply and coldly to the little dog, in a high and rather womanish voice: 

"Heel, Tang! Heel, I say!" 

He snapped his fingers and the little dog came trotting meekly toward 
him. Before Starwick's cold and scornful impassivity, Effie's broad and 
wholesome face did not alter a jot from its expression of radiant good- 
will, but suddenly her eyes, which, set in her robust and friendly coun- 
tenance, were the tortured mirror of her jealous, envious, possessive, and 
ravenously curious spirit, had grown hard and ugly, and the undernote 
of malice in her gay tones was more apparent than ever when she spoke 

"Pooly," she sai/i. laughing, taking Horton affectionately by the arm, 
and drawing close to him with the gesture of a bitterly jealous and 
possessive female, who, by the tortured necessity of her own spirit, must 
believe that "her man" is the paragon of the universe, and herself the 
envy of all other women, who lust to have him, but must gnash their 
teeth in vain "Pooly," she said lightly, and drawing close to him "may- 
be that's what's wrong with us! ... Maybe that's what it takes to make 
you write a great play! . . . Yes, sir!" she said gaily, "I believe that's 
it! ... I believe I'll save up all my spending money until I have enough 
to buy you a bee-yew-teeful tailored suit just like the one that Mr. Star- 
wick has on. ... Yes, sir!" She nodded her head emphatically in a 
convinced manner. "That's just exactly what I'm going to do! ... I'm 
going to get Mr. Starwick to give me the address of his tailor and have 
him make you a bee-yew-teeful new suit of English clothes and then, 
maybe, you'll turn into a great genius like Mr. Starwick and Eugene!" 

"The hell you will!" he said coarsely and heartily. "What's wrong 
with the one I got on? I only had it three years why, it's as good as the 
day I bought it." And he laughed with hearty, robust masculinity. 

"Why, Poo-o-ly!" she said reproachfully; "It's turning green! And I 
do so want you to get dressed up and be a genius like Mr. Starwick!" 

"Nope!" he said in his tone of dominant finality. "I'll wear this 
pair of pants till it falls off me. Then I'll go into Filene's bargain 
basement and buy another pair. Nope! You can't make an aesthete out of 


me! I can write just as well with a hole in the seat of my britches as 
not." And laughing coarsely, with robust and manly good nature, he 
smote Eugene on the back again, and rasped out heartily: 

"Ain't that right, kid?" 

"Oh, Pooly!" cried Effie reproachfully "And I do so want you to be 
d genius like Mr. Starwick!" 

"Now, wait a minute! Wait a minute!" he rasped, lifting a command- 
ing hand, as he joined with her in this ugly banter. "That's different! 
Starwick's an artist I'm nothing but a writer. They don't understand 
the way we artists work do they, Starwick ? Now an artist is sensitive 
to all these things," he went on in a jocose explanatory tone to his wife. 
"He's got to have the right atmosphere to work in. Everything's got to 
be just right for we artists doesn't it, Starwick?" 

"Quite!" said Starwick coldly. 

"Now with me it's different," said Horton heavily. "I'm just one of 
those big crude guys who can write anywhere. I get up in the morning 
and write, whether I feel like it or not. But it's different with us artists, 
isn't it, Starwick? Why, with a real honest-to-God-dyed-in-the-wool 
artist like Starwick, his whole life would be ruined for a month if his 
pants didn't fit, or if his necktie was of the wrong shade. . . . Ain't that 
right, Starwick?" 

And he laughed heavily, apparently with robust fellowship, hearty 
good nature, but his eyes were ugly, evil, jeering, as he spoke. 

"Quite!" said Starwick as before; and, his face deeply flushed, he 
called sharply to his dog, and then, turning inquiringly to Eugene, said 
quietly: "Are we ready?" 

Oh, I see, I see!" cried Effie, with an air of gay enlightenment. "That's 
what every one is all dressed up about! You're out for a walk, aren't 
you all among the little birdies, and the beeses, and the flowers! My! 
My! How I wish I could go along! Pooly!" she said coaxingly, "why 
don't you take me for a walk sometime ? I'd love to hear the little birdies 
sing! Come on, dear. Won't you?" she said coaxingly. 

"Nope!" he boomed out finally. "I walked you across the bridge and 
I walked to the corner this morning for a paper. That's all the walking 
that I'm going to do today. If you want to hear the little birdies sing, 
I'll buy you a canary." And turning to Eugene, he smote him on the 
shoulder again, and laughing with coarse laziness, said : 

"You know me, kid. . . . You know how I like exercise, don't you?" 

"Well, then, if we can't go along to hear the little birdies sing to Mr. 


Starwick and Eugene, I suppose we'll have to say good-bye," said Effie 
regretfully. "We've got no right to keep them from the little birdies 
any longer have we, dear ? And think what a treat it will be for all the 
little birdies. . . . And you, Eugene!" she cried out gaily and reproach- 
fully, but now with real warmth and friendship in her voice. "We 
haven't seen you at our home in a-a-ages! What's wrong with you? 
. . . You come up soon or I'll be mad at you." 

"Sure," Horton came out in his broad Iowa accent, putting his hand 
gently on the boy's shoulder. "Come up to see us, kid. We'll cook some 
grub and chew the rag a while. You know, I'm not coming back next 
year " for a moment Horton's eyes were clear, gray, luminous, deeply 
hurt, and full of pride and tenderness. "We're going to New Hampshire 
with Jim Madden. So come up, kid, as soon as you can : we ought to 
have one more session before I go." 

And the boy, suddenly touched and moved, felt the genuine affection, 
the real friendliness an animal-like warmth and kindliness and affec- 
tion that was the truest and most attractive element in Horton's per- 

And nodding his head, suddenly feeling affection for them both again, 
he said: 

"All right, Ed. I'll see you soon. So long, Effie. Good-bye. Good- 
bye, Ed." 

"Good-bye, kid. So long, Starwick," Horton said in a kindly tone. 
"We'll be looking for you, 'Gene So long!" 

Then they parted, in this friendly manner, and Starwick and Eugene 
continued their walk along the river. Starwick walked quietly, saying 
nothing; from time to time he called sharply to the little dog, command- 
ing him to come to "heel" again. 

The two young men had not seen each other for two months, save at 
Professor Hatcher's class, and then their relations had been formal, cold, 
and strained. Now Starwick, with a quick friendly and generous spon- 
taneity, had broken through the stubborn and resentful pride of the 
other youth, had made the first advance towards reconciliation, and, as 
he was able to do with every one when and where he pleased, had in- 
stantly conquered his friend's resentful feelings, and won him back with 
the infinite grace, charm, and persuasiveness of his own personality. 

Yet, during the first part of their walk along the river their conversa- 
tion, while friendly, had almost been studiously detached and casual, 
and was the conversation of people still under the constraint of embar- 


rassment and diffidence, who are waiting for the moment to speak 
things in which their lives and feelings are more intimately concerned. 

At length, they came to a bending in the river where there was a bank 
of green turf on which in the past they had often sat and smoked and 
talked while that small and lovely river flowed before them. Seated 
here again, and provided with cigarettes, a silence came between them, 
as if each was waiting for the other one to speak. 

Presently when Eugene looked towards his companion, Starwick's 
pleasant face with the cleft chin was turned towards the river in a set 
stare, and even as the other young man looked at him, his ruddy coun- 
tenance was contorted by the animal-like grimace swift and instant, 
which the other boy had often seen before, and which had in it, some- 
how, a bestial and inarticulate quality, a kind of unspeakable animal 
anguish that could find no release. 

In a moment, lowering his head, and staring away into the grassy 
turf, Starwick said quietly: 

"Why have you not been in to see me these last two months?" 

The other young man flushed, began to speak in a blundering and 
embarrassed tone and then, angered by his own confusion, burst out 
hotly : 

"Look here, Frank why have you got to be so damned mysterious 
and secretive in everything you do?" 

"Am I?" said Starwick quietly, 

"Yes, you are! You've been that way ever since I met you." 

"In what way?" Starwick asked. 

"Do you remember the first time I met you ?" the other one demanded. 

"Perfectly," Starwick said. "It was during your first year in Cam- 
bridge, a few days after you arrived. We met for dinner at the Cock 
Horse Tavern." 

"Yes," the other said excitedly. "Exactly. You had written me a note 
inviting me to dinner, and asking me to meet you there. Do you re- 
member what was in that note?" 

"No. What was it?" 

"Well, you said: 'Dear Sir I should be pleased if you will meet me 
for dinner at seven-thirty Wednesday evening at the Cock Horse Tavern 
on Brattle Street.' And the note was signed, 'Francis Starwick.' " 

"Well?" Starwick demanded quietly. "And what was wrong with 

"Nothing!" the other young man cried, his face flushing to a darker 


hue, and the excitement of his manner growing. "Nothing, Frank! 
Only, if you were going to invite a stranger some one you had never 
met before to dinner why the hell couldn't you have told him who 
you are, and the purpose of the meeting?" 

"I should think the purpose of the meeting was self-evident," said 
Starwick calmly. "The purpose was to have dinner together. Does that 
demand a whole volume of explanation ? No," he said coldly, "I con- 
fess I see nothing extraordinary about that at all." 

"Of course there wasn't!" the other youth exclaimed with vehement 
excitement. "Of course there was nothing extraordinary about it! Why, 
then, did you attempt, Frank, to make something extraordinary out of 

"It seems to me that you're the one who's doing that!" Starwick 

"Yes, but, damn it, man," the other cried angrily " don't you see the 
point ? You're that way with everything you do! You try to surround the 
simplest act with this great air of mystery and secrecy," he said bitterly. 
"Inviting me to dinner was all right it was fine!" he shouted. "I was a 
green kid of twenty who knew no one here, and I was scared to death. 
It was wonderful to get an invitation from some one asking me to 
dinner. But when you sent the invitation, why couldn't you have added 
just a word or two by way of explanation? Why couldn't you have 
stated one or two simple facts that would have made the reason for 
your invitation clear?" 

"For example?" Starwick said. 

"Why, Frank, simply that you were Professor Hatcher's assistant in 
the course, and that this thing of inviting people out to dinner was just 
a way you and Professor Hatcher had of getting acquainted with the 
new people," the other youth said angrily. "After all, you can't get an 
invitation to dinner from some one you don't know without wondering 
what it's all about." 

"And yet you came," said Starwick. 

"Yes, of course I came! I think I would have come if I had never 
heard of you before I was so bewildered and rattled by this new life, 
and so overwhelmed by living in a big city for the first time in my life 
that I would have accepted any kind of invitation jumped at the chance 
of meeting any one! However, I already knew who you were when 
your invitation came. .1 had heard that a man named Starwick was 
Hatcher's assistant. I figured therefore that the invitation had something 


to do with your connection with Professor Hatcher and the course- 
that you were inviting me to make me feel more at home up here, to 
establish a friendly relation, to give me what information you could, to 
help the new people out in any way you could. But when I met you, 
what happened?" he went on indignantly. "Never a word about the 
' course, about Professor Hatcher, about your being his assistant you 
pumped me with questions as if I were a prisoner on the witness stand 
and you the prosecuting lawyer. You told me nothing about yourself 
and asked a thousand questions about me and then you shook hands 
coldly, and departed! Always this air of secrecy and mystery, Frank!'* 
the boy went on angrily. "That's always the way it is with you in 
everything you do! And yet you wonder why people are surprised at 
your behavior! For weeks at a time I see you every day. We get to- 
gether in your rooms and talk and argue about everything on earth. 
You come and yell for me in my place at midnight and then we walk 
all over Cambridge in the dead of night. We go over to Masillippo's 
place in Boston and eat and drink and get drunk together, and when 
you pass out, I bring you home and carry you upstairs and put you to 
bed. Then the next day, when I come around again," the boy cried bit- 
terly, "what has happened ? I ring the bell. Your voice comes through 
the place as cold as hell 'Who is it?' you say. 'Why,' I say, 'it's your 
old friend and drunken companion, Eugene Gant, who brought you 
home last night.' Tm sorry,' you say, in a tone that would freeze a polar 
bear 'I can't see you. I'm busy now' and then you hang up in my 
face. The season of the great mystery has now begun," he went on sar- 
castically. "The great man is closeted in his sanctum composing," he 
sneered. "Not writing, mind you, but composing with a gold-tipped 
quill plucked from the wing of a Brazilian condor so, out, out, damned 
spot don't bother me, Gant begone, you low fellow on your way, 
bum! the great master, Signer Francis Starwick, is upstairs in a purple 
cloud, having a few immortal thoughts today with Amaryllis, his pet 

muse " 

"Gene! Gene!" said Starwick laughing, a trace of the old mannered 
accent returning to his voice again. "You are most unfair! You really 
are, you know!" 

"No but Frank, that's just the way you act," the other said. "You 
can't see enough of some one for weeks at a time and then you slam the 
door in his face. You pump your friends dry and tell them nothing 
ibout yourself. You try to surround everything you do with this grand 


romantic air of mysterious secrecy this there's-more-to-this-than-meets- 
the-eye manner. Frank, who the hell do you think you are, anyway, 
with these grand airs and mysterious manners that you have? Is it that 
you're not the same as other men?" he jeered. "Is it that like Caesar you 
were from your mother's womb untimely ripped! Is it that you are made 
from different stuff than the damned base clay of blood and agony from 
which the rest of us have been derived?" 

"What have I ever done," said Starwick flushing, "to give you the im- 
pression that I think of myself that way?" 

"For one thing, Frank, you act sometimes as if the world exists solely 
for the purpose of being your oyster. You sometimes act as if friendship, 
the affection of your friends, is something that exists solely for your 
pleasure and convenience and may be turned on and of? at will like a 
hot-water faucet that you can use their time, their lives, their feelings 
when they amuse and interest you and send them away like whipped 
dogs when you are bored, tired, indifferent, or have something else it 
suits you better to do." 

"I am not aware that I have ever done that," said Starwick quietly. 
"I am sorry if you think I have." 

"No, but, Frank what can you expect your friends to think ? I have 
told you about my life, my family, the kind of place and people I came 
from but you have told me nothing. You are the best friend I have here 
in Cambridge I think," the boy said slowly, flushing, and with some 
difficulty, "one of the best friends I have ever had. I have not had many 
friends I have known no one like you no one of my own age to whom 
I could talk as I have talked to you. I think I enjoy being with you and 
talking to you more than to any one I have ever known. This friendship 
that I feel for you has now become a part of my whole life and has got 
into everything I do. And yet, at times, I run straight into a blank wall. 
I could no more separate my friendship for you from the other acts and 
meetings of my life than I could divide into two parts of my body my 
father's and my mother's blood. With you it's different. You seem to 
have all your friends partitioned off and kept separate from one another 
in different cells and sections of your life. I know now that you have 
three or four sets of friends and yet these different groups of people 
never meet one another. You go about your life with all these different 
sets of people in this same secret and mysterious manner that charac- 
terizes everything you do. You have these aunts and cousins here in 
Cambridge that you see every week, and who, like every one else, 


lay themselves out to do everything they can to make your life comforta- 
ble and pleasant. You know these swells over on Beacon Hill in Boston, 
and you have some grand, mysterious and wealthy kind of life with 
them. Then you have another group here at the university people like 
Egan, and Hugh Dodd and myself. And at the end, Frank," the boy said 
almost bitterly "what is the purpose of all this secrecy and separation 
among your friends ? There's something so damned arrogant and cold 
and calculating about it it's almost as if you were one of these damned, 
wretched, self-centred fools who have their little time and place for 
everything an hour for social recreation and an hour for useful reading, 
another hour for healthy exercise, and then four hours for business, an 
hour for the concert and an hour for the play, an hour for "business 
contacts" and an hour for friendship Surely to God, Frank, you of all 
people on earth are not one of these damned, smug, vain, self-centred 
egotists who would milk this earth as if it were a great milk cow here 
solely for their enrichment, and who, at the end, in spite of all their 
damned, miserable, self-seeking profit for themselves remain nothing 
but the God-damned smug, sterile, misbegotten set of impotent and life- 
hating bastards that they are Surely to God, you, of all people in the 
world are not one of these," he fairly yelled, and sat there panting, ex- 
hausted by the tirade, and glaring at the other youth with wild, re- 
sentful eyes. 

"Eugene!" cried Starwick sharply, his ruddy features darkened with 
an angry glow. "You are being most unjust! What you are saying 
simply is not true." He was silent a moment, his face red and angry- 
looking, as he stared out across the river "If I had known that you felt 
this way," he went on quietly, "I should have introduced you to my 
other friends what you call these separate groups of people long ago. 
You may meet them any time you wish," he concluded. "It simply never 
occurred to me that you would be interested in knowing them." 

"Oh, Frank, I'm not!" the other boy cried impatiently, with a dis- 
missing movement of the hand. "I don't want to meet them I don't 
care who they are or how rich and fashionable or 'artistic' they may 
be. The thing I was kicking about was what seemed to me to be your 
air of secrecy the mysSterious manner in which you go about things : it 
seemed to me that there was something deliberately calculating and 
secretive in the way you shut one part of your life off from the people 
who know and like you best." 

Starwick made no answer for a moment, but sat looking out across 


the river. And for a moment, the old grimace of bestial, baffled pain 
passed swiftly across his ruddy features, and then he said, in a quiet 
and weary tone : 

"Perhaps you are right. I had never thought about it in that way. 
Yes, I can see now that you have told me much more about yourself - 
your family, your life before you came here, than I have told you about 
mine. And yet it never occurred to me that I was being mysterious or 
secretive. I think it is easier for you to speak about these things than it 
is for me. There is a great river of energy in you and it keeps bursting 
over and breaking loose. You could not hold it back if you tried. With 
me, it's different. I have not got that great well of life and power in me, 
and I could not speak as you do if I tried. Yet, Gene, if there is any- 
thing you want to know about my life before I came here, or what kind 
of people I came from I would tell you willingly." 

:i l have wanted to know more about you, Frank," the other young 
man said. "All that I know about your life before you came here is that 
you come from somewhere in the Middle West, and yet are completely 
different from any one I ever knew who came from there." 

"Yes," said Starwick quietly. "From Horton, for example?" his tone 
was still quiet, but there was a shade of irony in it. 

"Well," the other boy said, flushing, but continuing obstinately, " 
yes, from Horton. He is from Iowa, you can see, smell, read, feel Iowa all 
over him, in everything he says and does " 

" 'It's a darn good yarn,' " said Starwick, beginning to burble 
with laughter as he imitated the heavy, hearty, sonorous robustiousness 
of Horton's voice when he pronounced his favorite judgment. 

"Yes," said Eugene, laughing at the imitation, "that's it, all right 'it's 
& darn good yarn.' Well, Frank, you couldn't be more different from 
Horton if you had come from the planet Mars, and yet the place you 
come from out there in the Middle West, the kind of life you knew when 
you were growing up could not have been so different from Ed Hor- 


"No," said Starwick quietly. "As a matter of fact, I know where he is 
from it's not over fifty miles from the town I was born in, which is in 
Illinois, and the life in both places is much the same." 

He was silent a moment longer, as he stared across the river, and then 
continued in a quiet voice that had a calm, weary, and almost inert de- 
tachment that characterized these conversations with his friend, and 
that was almost entirely free of mannered speech: 


"As to the kind of people that we came from," he continued, "I can't 
say how different they may be, but I should think it very likely that Hor- 
ton's people are much the same kind of people as my own " 

"His father is a Methodist minister," the other young man quickly 
interposed. "He told me that." 

"Yes," said Starwick in his quiet and inert voice "and Horton is the 
rebel of the family." His tone had not changed apparently in its quality 
by an atom, yet the quiet and bitter irony with which he spoke was 

"How did you know that?" the other youth said in a surprised tone. 
"Yes that's true. His wife told me that Ed and his father are scarcely 
on speaking terms the old man prays for the salvation of Ed's soul three 
times a day, because he is trying to write plays and wants to get into the 
theatre. Effie Horton says Ed's father still writes Ed letters begging him 
to repent and mend his ways before his soul is damned forever: she 
says the old man calls the theatre the Devil's Workshop." 

"Yes," said Starwick in his quiet and almost lifeless tone that still had 
curiously the cutting edge of a weary and detached sarcasm "and Hor- 
ton has bearded the philistines in their den, hasn't he, and given all for 

"Isn't that a bit unjust? I know you don't think very highly of Ed 
Horton's ability, but, after all, the man must have had some genuine 
desire to create something some real love for the theatre or he would 
not have broken with his family, and come here." 

"Yes. I suppose he has. Many people have that desire," said Starwick 
wearily. "Do you think it is enough?" 

"No, I do not. And yet I think a man who has it is better off will 
have a better life, somehow than the man who does not have it at all. 

"Do you?" Starwick answered in a dead tone. "I wish I thought so, 

"But don't you, Frank ? Surely it is better to have some kind of talent, 
however small, than none at all." 

"Would you say, then," Starwick answered, "that it was better to have 
some kind of child however puny, feeble, ugly, and diseased as King 
Richard said about himself, brought into the world 'scarce half made 
up' than to have no child at all?" 

"I would not think so. No." 

"Have you ever thought, Eugene, that the great enemy of life may 
not be death, but life itself?" Starwick continued. "Have you never 


noticed that the really evil people that one meets the people who are 
filled with hatred, fear, envy, rancour against life who wish to destroy 
the artist and his work are not figures of satanic darkness, who have 
been born with a malignant hatred against life, but rather people who 
have had the seeds of life within themselves, and been destroyed by 
them? They are the people who have been given just enough to get a 

vision of the promised land however brief and broken it may be " 

"But not enough to get there ? Is that what you mean?" 
"Exactly," Starwick answered. "They are left there in the desert, 
maddened by the sight of water they can never reach, and all the juices 
of their life then turn to gall and bitterness to envy and malignant 
hate. They are the old women in the little towns and villages with the 
sour eyes and the envenomed flesh who have so poisoned the air with 
their envenomed taint that everything young and beautiful and full of 
joy that lives there will sicken and go dead and vicious and malignant 
as the air it breathes. They are the lecherous and impotent old men of 
the world, those foul, palsied creatures with small rheumy eyes who hate 
the lover and his mistress with the hate of hell and eunuchry who try 
to destroy love with their hatred, and the slanderous rumor of their 
poisoned tongues. And, finally, they are the eunuths of the arts the 
men who have the lust, without the power, for creation, and whose life 
goes dead and rotten with its hatred of the living artist and the living 


"And you think that Horton will be one of these?" 
Again Starwick was silent for a moment, staring out across the river. 
When he spoke again, he did not answer his companion's question di- 
rectly, but in a quiet and inert tone in which the cutting edge of irony 
was barely evident, he said : 

"My God, Eugene" his voice was so low and wearily passionate with 
revulsion that it was almost inaudible "if ever you may come to know, 
as I have known all my life, the falseness in a hearty laugh, the envy 
and the malice in a jesting word, the naked hatred in a jeering eye, and 
all the damned, warped, poisonous constrictions of the heart the hor- 
rible fear and cowardice and cruelty, the naked shame, the hypocrisy, 
and the pretense, that is masked there behind the full hearty tones, the 
robust manliness of the Hortons of this earth . . ." He was silent a mo- 
ment longer, and then went on in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone "I was 
the youngest in a family of nine children the same kind of family that 
you will find everywhere. I was the only delicate flower among them,! 1 


he went on with a cold impassive irony. "We were not rich people ... a 
big family growing up with only a small income to support us. They 
were all good people," he said quietly. "My father was superintendent 
of a small farm-machinery plant, and before that they were farming 
people, but they sent me to school, and after that to college. I was the 
'bright boy' of the town" again the weary irony of his voice was evi- 
dent "the local prodigy, the teacher's pet. . . . Perhaps that is my des- 
tiny; to have something of the artist's heart, his soul, his understanding, 
his perceptions never to have his power, the hand that shapes, the 
tongue that can express oh, God! Eugene! is that to be my life to 
have all that I know and feel and would create rot still-born in my 
spirit, to be a wave that breaks forever in mid-ocean, the shoulder of a 
strength without the wall my God! My God! to come into this world 
scarce half made up, to have the spirit of the artist and to lack his hide, to 
feel the intolerable and unspeakable beauty, mystery, loveliness, and 
terror of this immortal land this great America and a skin too sensi- 
tive, a hide too delicate and rare " his voice was high and bitter with his 
passion u to declare its cruelty, its horror, falseness, hunger, the warped 
and twisted soul of its frustration, and lacking hide and .toughness, born 
without a skin, to make an armor, school a manner, build a barrier of 
my own against its Hortons " 

"And is that why ?" the other boy began, flushed, and quickly 
checked himself. 

"Is that why what?" said Starwick turning, looking at him. Then as 
he did not answer, but still remained silent, flushed with embarrassment, 
Starwick laughed, and said: "Is that why I am an affected person a 
poseur what Horton calls a 'damned little esthete' why I speak and 
act and dress the way I do?" 

The other flushed miserably and muttered: 

"No, I didn't say that, Frank!" 

Starwick laughed suddenly, his infectious and spontaneous laugh, 
and said : 

"But why not? Why shouldn't you say it? Because it is the truth. It 
really is, you know," and almost mockingly at these words, his voice 
assumed its murmured and affected accent. Then he said quietly again: 

"Each man has his manner with each it comes for his own reason 
Horton's, so that his hearty voice and robust way may hide the hatred in 
his eyes, the terror in his heart, the falseness and pretense in his pitiable 
warped small soul. He has his manner, I have mine his for conceal- 


ment, mine for armor, because my native hide was tender and my skin 
too sensitive to meet the Hortons of the earth and somewhere, down 
below our manner, stands the naked man." Again he was silent and in 
a moment he continued quietly: 

"My father was a fine man and we never got to know each other very 
well. The night before I went away to college he 'took me to one side* 
and talked to me he told me how they had their hearts set on me, 
and he asked me to become a good and useful man a good American." 

"And what did you say, Frank?" 

"Nothing. There was nothing I could say. . . . Our house stands on a 
little butte above the river," he went on quietly in a moment, "and when 
he had finished talking I went out and stood there looking at the river." 

"What river, Frank?" 

"There is only one," he answered. "The great slow river the dark 
and secret river of the night the everlasting flood the unceasing Mis- 
sissippi. ... It is a river that I know so well, with all my life that I shall 
never tell about. Perhaps you will some day perhaps you have the 
power in you And if you do " he paused. 

"And if I do?" 

"Speak one word for a boy who could not speak against the Hortons 
of this land, but who once stood above a river and who knew America 
as every other boy has known it." He turned, smiling: "If thou did'st 
ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile, and in this 
harsh world draw thy breath in pain, to tell my story." 

In a moment he got up, and laughing his infectious laugh, said: 

"Come on, let's go." 

And together they walked away. 




OCTOBER had come again, and that year it was sharp and soon: frost 
was early, burning the thick green on the mountain sides to massed 
brilliant hues of blazing colors, painting the air with sharpness, sorrow 
and delight and with October. Sometimes, and often, there was 
warmth by day, an ancient drowsy light, a golden warmth and pol- 
lenated haze in afternoon, but over all the earth there was the premoni- 
tory breath of frost, an exultancy for all the men who were returning, a 
haunting sorrow for the buried men, and for all those who were gone 
and would not come again. 

His father was dead, and now it seemed to him that he had never 
found him. His father was dead, and yet he sought him everywhere, 
and could not believe that he was dead, and was sure that he would 
find him. It was October and that year, after years of absence and of 
waritkring, he had come home again. 

He could not think that his father had died, but he had come home in 
October, and all the life that he had known there was strange and sor- 
rowful as dreamSo And yet he saw it all in shapes of deathless bright- 
ness the town, the streets, the magic hills, and the plain prognathous 
faces of the people he had known. He saw them all in shapes of death- 
less brightness, and everything was instantly familiar as his father's face, 
and stranger, more phantasmal than a dream. 

Their words came to him with the accents of an utter naturalness, 
and yet were sorrowful and lost and strange like voices speaking in a 
dream, and in their eyes he read a lost and lonely light, as if they were 
all phantoms and all lost, or as if he had revisited the shores of this great 
earth again with a heart of fire, a cry of pain and ecstasy, a memory of 
intolerable longing and regret for all the glorious and exultant lite that 
he had known and which he must visit now forever as a fleshless ghost, 
never to touch, to hold, to have its palpable warmth and substance for 
his own again. He had come home again, and yet he could not be- 
lieve his father was dead, and he thought he heard his great voice ring- 
ing in the street again, and that he would see him striding toward him 
across the Square with his gaunt earth-devouring stride, or find him 
waiting every time he turned the corner, or lunging toward the house 



bearing the tremendous provender of his food and meat, bringing to 
them all the deathless security of his strength and power and passion, 
bringing to them all again the roaring message of his fires that shook 
the fire-full chimney throat with their terrific blast, giving to them all 
again the exultant knowledge that the good days, the magic days, the 
golden weather of their lives would come again, and that this dream- 
like and phantasmal world in which they found themselves would 
waken instantly, as it had once, to all the palpable warmth and glory of 
the earth, if only his father would come back to make it live, to give them 
life, again. 

Therefore, he could not think that he was dead, and yet it was October, 
and that year he had come home again. And at night, in his mother*s 
house, he would lie in his bed in the dark, hearing the wind that rattled 
dry leaves along the empty pavement, hearing far-off across the wind> 
the barking of a dog, feeling dark time, strange time, dark secret time, 
as it flowed on around him, remembering his life, this house, and all 
the million strange and secret visages of time, dark time, thinking, feel- 
ing, thinking: 

"October has come again, has come again I have come home again, 

and found my father dead . . . and that was time . . . time . . . time. . . . 
Where shall I go now? What shall I do? For October has come again, 
but there has gone some richness from the life we knew, and we are 

Storm shook the house at night the old house, his mother's house 
where he had seen his brother die. The old doors swung and creaked in 
darkness, darkness pressed against the house, the darkness filled them, 
filled the house at night, it moved about them soft and secret, palpable, 
filled with a thousand secret presences of sorrowful time and memory, 
moving about him as he lay below his brother's room in darkness, while 
storm shook the house in late October, and something creaked and rat- 
tled in the wind's strong blast. It was October, and he had come home 
again : he could not believe that his father was dead. 

Wind beat at them with burly shoulders in the night. The darkness 
moved there in the house like something silent, palpable a spirit breath- 
ing in his mother's house, a demon and a friend speaking to him its 
silent and intolerable prophecy of flight, of darkness and the storm, mov- 
ing about him constantly, prowling about the edges of his life, ever be- 
side him, with him, in him, whispering: 

"Child, child come with me come with me to your brother's grave 


tonight. Come with me to the places where the young men lie whose 
bodies have long since been buried in the earth. Come with me where 
they walk and move again tonight, and you shall see your brother's face 
again, and hear his voice, and see again, as they march toward you from 
their graves the company of the young men who died, as he did, in 
October, speaking to you their messages of flight, of triumph, and the 
all-exultant darkness, telling you that all will be again as it was once." 

October had come again, and he would lie there in his mother's 
house at night, and feel the darkness moving softly all about him, and 
hear the dry leaves scampering on the street outside, and the huge and 
burly rushes of the wind. And then the wind would rush away with 
huge caprice, and he could hear it far oft roaring with remote demented 
cries in the embraces of great trees, and he would lie there thinking: 

"October has come again has come again" feeling the dark around 
him-, not believing that his father could be dead, thinking: "The strange 
and lonely years, have come again. ... I have come home again . . . come 
home again . . . and will it not be with us all as it has been?" feeling 
the darkness as it moved about him, thinking, "Is it not the same dark- 
ness that I knew in childhood, and have I not lain here in bed before, 
and felt this darkness moving all about me? ... Did we not hear dogs 
that barked in darkness, in October?" he then thought. "Were not their 
howls far broken by the wind ? . . . And hear dry leaves that scampered 
on the streets at night . . . and the huge and burly rushes of the wind 
. . . and hear huge limbs that stiffly creak in the remote demented howl- 
ings of the burly wind . . . and something creaking in the wind at 
night . . . and think, then, as we think now, of all the men who have 
gone and never will come back again, and of our friends and brothers 
who lie buried in the earth? . . . Oh, has not October now come back 
again ?" he cried. "As always as it always was?" and hearing the great 
darkness softly prowling in his mother's house at night, and thinking, 
feeling, thinking, as he lay there in the dark: 

"Now October has come again which in our land is different from 
October in the other lands. The ripe, the golden month has come again, 
and in Virginia the chinkapins are falling. Frost sharps the middle 
music of the seasons, and all things living on the earth turn home again. 
The country is so big you cannot say the country has the same October. 
In Maine, the frost comes sharp and quick as driven nails, just for a 
week or so the woods, all of the bright and bitter leaves, flare up: the 
maples turn a blazing bitter red, and other leaves turn yellow like a 


living light, falling about you as. you walk the woods, falling about you 
like small pieces of the sun so that you cannot say where sunlight shakes 
and flutters on the ground, and where the leaves. 

"Meanwhile the Palisades are melting in massed molten colors, the 
season swings along the nation, and a little later in the South dense 
woodings on the hill begin to glow and soften, and when they smell 
the burning wood-smoke in Ohio children say: Til bet that there's a 
forest fire in Michigan.' And the mountaineer goes hunting down in 
North Carolina, he stays out late with mournful flop-eared hounds, a 
rind of moon comes up across the rude lift of the hills: what do his 
friends say to him when he stays out late? Full of hoarse innocence 
and laughter, they will say: 'Mister, yore ole woman's goin* to whup ye 
if ye don't go home.' " 

Oh, return, return! 

"October is the richest of the seasons: the fields are cut, the granaries 
are full, the bins are loaded to the brim with fatness, and from the 
cider-press the rich brown oozings of the York Imperials run. The bee 
bores to the belly of the yellowed grape, the fly gets old and fat and blue,, 
he buzzes loud, crawls slow, creeps heavily to death on sill and ceiling, 
the sun goes down in blood and pollen across the bronzed and mown 
Gelds of old October. 

"The corn is shocked: it sticks out in hard yellow rows upon dried 
ears, fit now for great red barns in Pennsylvania, and the big stained 
teeth of crunching horses. The indolent hooves kick swiftly at the 
boards, the barn is sweet with hay and leather, wood and apples this, 
and the clean dry crunching of the teeth is all: the sweat, the labor, and 
the plow is over. The late pears mellow on a sunny shelf; smoked 
hams hang to the warped barn rafters; the pantry shelves are loaded with 
300 jars of fruit. Meanwhile the leaves are turning, turning, up in Maine, 
the chestnut burrs plop thickly to the earth in gusts of wind, and in Vir- 
ginia the chinkapins are falling. 

"There is a smell of burning in small towns in afternoon, and men 
with buckles on their arms are raking leaves in yards as boys come by 
with straps slung back across their shoulders. The oak leaves, big and 
brown, are bedded deep in yard and gutter: they make deep wadings to 
the knee for children in the streets. The fire will snap and crackle like a 
whip, sharp acrid smoke will sting the eyes, in mown fields the little 
vipers of the flame eat past the black coarse edges of burned stubble lik 
a line of locusts. Fire drives a thorn of memory in the heart. 


"The bladed grass, a forest of small spears of ice, is thawed by noon: 
summer is over but the sun is warm again, and there are days through- 
out the land of gold and russet. But summer is dead and gone, the 
earth is waiting, suspense and ecstasy are gnawing at the hearts of men, 
the brooding prescience of frost is there. The sun flames red and bloody 
as it sets, there are old red glintings on the battered pails, the great barn 
gets the ancient light as the boy slops homeward with warm foaming 
milk. Great shadows lengthen in the fields, the old red light dies swiftly, 
and the sunset barking of the hounds is faint and far and full of frost: 
there are shrewd whistles to the dogs, and frost and silence this is all. 
Wind stirs and scuflfs and rattles up the old brown leaves, and through 
the night the great oak leaves keep falling. 

"Trains cross the continent in a swirl of dust and thunder, the leaves 
fly down the tracks behind them : the great trains cleave through gulch 
and gulley, they rumble with spoked thunder on the bridges over the 
powerful brown wash of mighty rivers, they toil through hills, they 
skirt the rough brown stubble of shorn fields, they whip past empty 
stations in the little towns and their great stride pounds its even pulse 
across America. Field and hill and lift and gulch and hollow, mountain 
and plain and river, a wilderness with fallen trees across it, a thicket of 
bedded brown and twisted undergrowth, a plain, a desert, and a planta- 
tion, a mighty landscape with no fenced niceness, an immensity of fold 
and convolution that can never be remembered, that can never be for- 
gotten, that has never been described weary with harvest, potent with 
every fruit and ore, the immeasurable richness embrowned with autumn, 
rank, crude, unharnessed, careless of scars or beauty, everlasting and 
magnificent, a cry, a space, an ecstasy! American earth in old October. 

"And the great winds howl and swoop across the land: they make a 
distant roaring in great trees, and boys in bed will stir in ecstasy, think- 
ing of demons and vast swoopings through the earth. All through the 
night there is the clean, the bitter rain of acorns, and the chestnut burrs 
are plopping to the ground. 

"And often in the night there is only the living silence, the distant 
frosty barking of a dog, the small clumsy stir and feathery stumble of the 
chickens on limed roosts, and the moon, the low and heavy moon of 
autumn, now barred behind the leafless poles of pines, now at the pine- 
woods' brooding edge and summit, now falling with ghost's dawn of 
milky light upon rimed clods of fields and on the frosty scurf on pump- 
kins, now whiter, smaller, brighter, hanging against the steeple's slope, 


hanging the same way in a million streets, steeping all the earth in frost 
and silence. 

"Then a chime of frost-cold bells may peal out on the brooding air, 
and people lying in their beds will listen. They will not speak or stir, 
silence will gnaw the darkness like a rat, but they will whisper in their 

"'Summer has come and gone, has come and gone. And now ?' 
But they will say no more, they will have no more to say : they will wait 
listening, silent and brooding as the frost, to time, strange ticking time, 
dark time that haunts us with the briefness of our days. They will think 
of men long dead, of men now buried in the earth, of frost and silence 
long ago, of a forgotten face and moment of lost time, and they will 
think of things they have no words to utter. 

"And in the night, in the dark, in the living sleeping silence of the 
towns, the million streets, they will hear the thunder of the fast express, 
the whistles of great ships upon the river. 

"What will they say then? What will they say?" 

Only the darkness moved about him as he lay there thinking, feeling 
in the darkness: a door creaked softly in the house. 

"October is the season for returning: the bowels of youth are yearn- 
ing with lost love. Their .mouths are dry and bitter with desire: their 
hearts are torn with the thorns of spring. For lovely April, cruel and 
flowerful, will tear them with sharp joy and wordless lust. Spring has 
no language but a cry; but crueller than April is the asp of time. 

"October is the season for returning: even the town is born anew," he 
thought. "The tide of life is at the full again, the rich return to business 
or to fashion, and the bodies of the poor are rescued out of heat and 
weariness. The ruin and horror of the summer is forgotten a memory 
of hot cells and humid walls, a hell of ugly sweat and labor and distress 
and hopelessness, a limbo of pale greasy faces. Now joy and hope have 
revived again in the hearts of millions of people, they breathe the air 
again with hunger, their movements are full of life and energy. The 
mark of their summer's suffering is still legible upon their flesh, there is 
something starved and patient in their eyes, and a look that has a 
child's hope and expectation in it. 

"All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, trav- 
ellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice 
of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken all things that live 


upon this earth return, return: Father, will you not, too, come back 
again ? 

"Where are you now, when all things on the earth come back again ? 
For have not all these things been here before, have we not seen them, 
heard them, known them, and will they not live again for us as they did 
once, if only you come back again ? 

"Father, in the night time, in the dark, I have heard the thunder of 
the fast express. In the night, in the dark, I have heara the howling of 
the winds among great trees, and the sharp and windy raining of the 
acorns. In the night, in the dark, I have heard the feet of rain upon the 
roofs, the glut and gurgle of the gutter spouts, and the soaking gulping 
throat of all the mighty earth, drinking its thirst out in the month of 
May and heard the sorrowful silence of the river in October. The hill- 
streams foam and welter in a steady plunge, the mined clay drops and 
melts and eddies in the night, the snake coils cool and glistening under 
dripping ferns, the water roars down past the mill in one sheer sheet- 
like plunge, making a steady noise like wind, and in the night, in the 
dark, the river flows by us to the sea. 

"The great maw slowly drinks the land as we lie sleeping: the mined 
banks cave and crumble in the dark, the earth melts and drops into 
its tide, great horns are baying in the gulph of night, great boats are 
baying at the river's mouth. Thus, darkened by our dumpings, thickened 
by our stains, rich, rank, beautiful, and unending as all life, all living, 
the river, the dark immortal river, full of strange tragic time is flowing 
by us by us by us to the sea. 

"All this has been upon the earth, and will abide forever. But you are 
gone; our lives are ruined and broken in the night, our lives are mined 
below us by the river, our lives are whirled away into the sea and dark- 
ness, and we are lost unless you come to give us life again. 

"Come to us, Father, in the watches of the night, come to us as you al- 
ways came, bringing to us the invincible sustenance of your strength, the 
limitless treasure of your bounty, the tremendous structure of your life 
that will shape all lost and broken things on earth again into a golden 
pattern of exultancy and joy. Come to us, Father, while the winds howl 
in the darkness, for October has come again bringing with it huge 
prophecies of death and life and the great cargo of the men who will re- 
turn. For we are ruined, lost, and broken if you do not come, and our 
lives, like rotten chips, are whirled about us onward in darkness to 
the sea." 


So, thinking, feeling, speaking, he lay there in his mother's house, Hut 
there was nothing in the house but silence and the moving darkness: 
storm shook the house and huge winds rushed upon them, and he knew 
then that his father would not come again, and that all the life that he 
had known was now lost and broken as a dream. 


DURING the whole course of that last October the last October he 
would spend at home he was waiting day by day with a desperation of 
wild hope for a magic letter one of those magic letters for which young 
men wait, which are to bring them instantly the fortune, fame, and tri- 
umph for which their souls thirst and their hearts are panting, and 
which never come. 

Each morning he would get up with a pounding heart, trembling 
hands, and chattering lips, ond then, like a man in prison who is waiting 
feverishly for some glorious message of release or pardon which he is 
sure will come that day, he would wait for the coming of the postman 
And when he came, even before he reached the house,' the moment that 
Eugene heard his whistle, he would rush out into the street, tear the 
mail out of his astounded grasp, and begin to hunt through it like a 
madman for the letter which would announce to him that fortune, fame, 
and glittering success were his. He was twenty-two years old, a mad- 
man and a fool, but every young man in the world has been the same. 

Then, when the wonderful letter did not come, his heart would sink 
down to his bowels like lead, all of the brightness, gold, and singing 
would go instantly out of the day and he would stamp back into the 
house, muttering to himself, sick with despair and misery and think- 
ing that now his life was done for, sure enough. He could not eat, 
sleep, stand still, sit down, rest, talk coherently, or compose himself 
for five minutes at a time. He would go prowling and muttering 
around the house, rush out into the streets of the town, walk up and 
down the main street, pausing to talk with the loafers before the prin- 
cipal drug store, climb the hills and mountains all around the town 
and look down on the town with a kind of horror and disbelief, an 
awful dreamlike unreality because the town, since his long absence and 
return to it, and all the people in it, now seemed as familiar as his 
mother's face and stranger than a dream, so that he could never regain 
his life or corporeal substance in it, any more than a man who revisits his 


youth in a dream, and so that, also, the town seemed to have shrunk to- 
gether, got little, fragile, toy-like in his absence, until now when he 
walked in the street he thought he was going to ram his elbows through 
the walls, as if the walls were paper, or tear down the buildings, as if 
they had been made of straw. 

Then he would come down off the hills into the town again, go home, 
and prowl and mutter around the house, which now had the same real- 
unreal familiar-strangeness that the town had, and his life seemed to 
have been passed there like a dream. Then, with a mounting hope and 
a pounding heart, he would begin to wait for the next mail again ; and 
when it came, but without the letter, this furious prowling and lashing 
about would start all over. His family saw the light of madness in his 
eyes, and in his disconnected movements, and heard it in his incoherent 
speech. He could hear them whispering together, and sometimes when 
he looked up he could see them looking at him with troubled and be- 
wildered faces. And yet he did not think that he was mad, nor know 
how he appeared to them. 

Yet, during all this time of madness and despair his people were as 
kind and tolerant as any one on earth could be. 

His mother, during all this time, treated him with kindness and 
tolerance, and according to the law of her powerful, hopeful, brooding, 
octopal, and web-like character, with all its meditative procrastination, 
never coming to a decisive point, but weaving, re-weaving, pursing her 
lips, and meditating constantly and with a kind of hope, even though in 
her deepest heart she really had no serious belief that he could succeed 
in doing the thing he wanted to do. 

Thus, as he talked to her sometimes, going on from hope to hope, his 
enthusiasm mounting with the intoxication of his own vision, he would 
paint a glittering picture of the fame and wealth he was sure to win in 
the world, as soon as his play was produced. And his mother would 
listen thoughtfully, pursing her lips from time to time, in a meditative 
fashion, as she sat before the fire with her hands folded in a strong loose 
clasp above her stomach. Then, finally, she would turn to him and with 
a proud, tremulous, and yet bantering smile playing about her mouth> 
such as she had always used when he was a child, and had perhaps 
spoken of some project with an extravagant enthusiasm, she would say: 

"Hm, boy! I tell you what!" his mother said, in this bantering tone, 
as if he were still a child. "That's mighty big talk as the sayin' goes " 
here she put one finger under her broad red nose-wing and laughed; 


shyly, but with pleasure "as the sayin' goes, mighty big talk for poor- 
folks!" said his mother. "Well, now," she said in a thoughtful and hope- 
ful tone, after a moment's pause, "you may do it, sure enough. Stranger 
things than that have happened. Other people have been able to make a 
success of their writings and there's one thing sure!" His mother 
cried out strongly with the loose, powerful and manlike gesture of her 
hand and index finger which was characteristic of all her family 
"there's one thing sure! what one man has done another can do if 
he's got grit and determination enough!" His mother said, putting the 
full strength of her formidable will into these words "Why, yes, now!" 
she now said, with a recollective start, "Here, now! Say!" she cried 
"wasn't I reading? didn't I see? Why, pshaw! yes! just the other 
day that all these big writers yes, sir! Irvin S. Cobb there was the 
very feller!" cried his mother in a triumphant tone "Why, you know," 
she continued, pursing her lips in a meditative way, " that he had the 
very same trials and tribulations as the sayin' goes as every one else! 
Why, yes! here he told it on himself admitted it, you know that he 
kept writin' these stories for years, sendin' them out, I reckon, to all the 
editors and magazines and having them all sent back to him. That's 
the way it was," she said, "and now look at him! Why, I reckon they'd 
pay him hundreds of dollars for a single piece yes! and be glad of. the 
chance to get it," said his mother. 

Then for a space his mother sat looking at the fire, while she slowb 
and reflectively pursed her lips. 

"Well," she said slowly at length, "you may do it. I hope you do. 
Stranger things than that have happened. Now, there's one thing sure," 
she said strongly, "you have certainly had a good education there's 
been more money spent upon your schoolin' than on all the rest of us put 
together and you certainly ought to know enough to write a story or a 
play! Why, yes, boy! I tell you what," his mother now cried in the old 
playful and bantering tone, as if she were speaking to a child, "if I had 
your education I believe I'd try to be a writer, too! Why, yes! I wouldn't 
mind getting out of all this drudgery and house-work for a while and 
if I could earn my living doin' some light easy work like that, why, you 
can bet your bottom dollar, I'd do it!" cried his mother. "But, say, now! 
See here!" his mother cried with a kind of jocose seriousness "maybe 
that'd be a good idea, after all! Suppose you write the stories," she said, 
winking at him, "and I tell you what I'll do!- Why, I'll tell 'em to you! 


Now, if I had your education, and your command of language," said his 
mother, whose command of language was all that any one could wish 
"I believe I could tell a pretty good story so if you'll write 'em out,' she 
said, with another wink, "I'll tell you what to write and I'll bet you 
I'll bet you," said his mother, "that we could write a story that would 
beat most of these stories that I read, all to pieces! Yes, sir!" she said, 
pursing her lips firmly, and with an invincible conviction "and I bet 
you people would buy that story and come to see that play!" she said. "Be- 
cause I know what to tell 'em, and the kind of thing people are inter- 
ested in hearing," she said. 

Then for a moment more she was silent and stared thoughtfully into 
the fire. 

"Well," she said slowly, "you may do it. You may do it, sure enough! 
Now, boy," she said, levelling that powerful index finger toward him, 
"I want to tell you! Your grandfather, Tom Pentland, was a remarka- 
ble man and if he'd had your education he'd a-gone far! And every 
one who ever knew him said the same! . . . Oh! stories, poems, pieces 
in the paper why didn't they print something of his every week or 
two!" she cried. "And that's exactly where you get it," said his mother. 
w But, say, now," she said in a persuasive tone, after a moment's medi- 
tation, "I've been thinkin' it just occurred to me wouldn't it be a 
good idea if you could find some work to do I mean, get you a job 
somewheres of some light easy work that would give you plenty of time 
to do your writia' as you went on! Now, Rome wasn't built in a day, 
you know!" his mother said in the bantering tone, " and you might 
have to send that play around to several places before you found the 
one who could do it right for you! So while you're waitin'," said his 
mother persuasively, "why wouldn't it be a good idea if you got a little 
light newspaper work, or a job tcachin' somewheres pshaw! you could 
do it easy as falling off a log," his mother said contemptuously. "I taught 
school myself before I got married to your papa, and I didn't have a bit 
of trouble! And all the schoolin' that I ever had all the schoolin' that 
I ever had," she cried impressively, "was six months one time in a little 
backwoods school! Now if I could do it, there's one thing sure, with 
all your education you ought to be able to do it, too! Yes, sir, that's the 
very thing!" she said. "I'd do it like a shot if I were you." * 

He said nothing, and his mother sat there for a moment looking at 
the fire. Suddenly she turned, and her face had grown troubled and 


sorrowful, an,d her worn and faded eyes were wet with tejars. She 
stretched her strong rough hand out and put it over his, shaking her 
head a little before she spoke: 

"Child, child! "she said. "It worries me to see you act like this! I hate 
to see you so unhappy! Why, son," his mother said, "what if they 
shouldn't take it now! You've got long years ahead of you, and if you 
can't do it now, why, maybe, some day you will! And if you don't!" his 
mother cried out strongly and formidably, "why, Lord, boy, what about 
it! You're a young man with your whole life still before you and if 
you can't do this thing, why there are other things you can do! . . . 
Pshaw, boy, your life's not ended just because you find out that you 
weren't cut out to be a playwriter," said his mother. "There are a thou- 
sand things a young man of your age could do! Why, it wouldn't faze 
me for a moment!" cried his mother. 

And he sat there in front of her invincible strength, hope, and fortitude 
and her will that was more strong than death, her character that was as 
solid as a rock; he was as hopeless and wretched as he had ever been in 
his life, wanting to say a thousand things to her and saying none of 
them, and reading in her eyes the sorrowful message that she did not 
believe he would ever be able to do the thing on which his heart so 
desperately was set. 

At this moment the door opened and his brother entered the room. 
As they stared at him with startled faces, he stood there looking at them 
out of his restless, tormented gray eyes, breathing his large and unhappy 
breath of unrest and nervousness, a harassed look on his handsome and 
generous face, as with a distracted movement he thrust his strong, im- 
patient fingers through the flashing mop of his light brown hair, that 
curled everywhere in incredible whorls and screws of angelic bright- 

"Hah?" his mother sharply cried, as she looked at him with her white 
face, the almost animal-like quickness and concentration of her startled 
attention. "What say?" she said in a sharp startled tone, although as yet 
his brother had said nothing. 

"W-w-w-wy!" he began in a distracted voice, as he thrust his fingers 
through his, incredible flashing hair, and his eyes flickered about absent- 
ly and with a tormented and driven look, "I was just f-f-f-finkin' " he 
went on in a dissonant and confused tone, then, suddenly catching sight 
of her white startled face, he smote himself suddenly and hard upon his 


temple with the heel of one large hand, and cried out, "Haw!" in a tone 
of such idiot exuberance and exultancy that it is impossible to reproduce 
in words the limitless and earthy vulgarity of its humor. At the same 
time he prodded his mother stiffly in the ribs with his clumsy fingers, an 
act that made her shriek out resentfully, and then say in a vexed and 
fretful tone: 

"I'll vow, boy! You act like a regular idiot! If I didn't have any 
more sense than to go and play a trick like that I'd be ash-a-a-med 
ash-a-a-a-med," she whispered, with a puckered mouth, as she shook her 
head at him in a movement of strong deprecation, scorn, and reproof. 
"I'd be ashamed to let any one know I was such a fool," his mother 

"Whah! Whahl" Luke shouted with his wild, limitlessly exuberant 
laugh, that was so devastating in its idiot exultancy that all words, re- 
proaches, scorn, or attempts at reason were instantly reduced to noth- 
ing by it. "Whee!" he cried, prodding her in her resentful ribs again, 
his handsome face broken by his huge and exuberant smile. Then, as if 
cherishing something secret and uncommunicably funny in its idiot hu- 
mor, he smote himself upon the forehead again, cried out, "Whah 
Whah!" and then, shaking his grinning face to himself in this move- 
ment of secret and convulsive humor, he said: "Whee! Go-o-d-damnP' 
in a tone of mincing and ironic refinement. 

"Why, what on earth has got into you, boy!" his mother cried out 
fretfully. "Why, you're actin' like a regular simpleton, I'll vow you 

"Whah! Whah!" Luke cried exultantly. 

"Now, I don't know where it comes from," said his mother judicially, 
with a deliberate and meditative sarcasm, as if she were seriously con- 
sidering the origin of his lunacy. "There's one thing sure: you never 
got it from me. Now, all my people had their wits about them now, 
say what you please," she went on in a thoughtful tone, as she stared 
with puckered mouth into the fire, "I never heard of a weak-minded 
one in the whole crowd " 

"Whah whahl" he cried. 

" So you didn't get it from any of my people," she went on with 
deliberate and telling force "no, you didn't!" she said. 

"Whah-h!" he prodded her in the ribs again, and then immediately, 
and in a very earnest tone, he said: 

"W-w-w-wy, I was just f-f-f-finkin' it would be a good idea if we all 


w-w-w-went for a little ride. F-f-f-frankly, I fink it would do us good," 
he said, looking at Eugene with a very earnest look in his restless and 
tormented eyes. "I fink we need it! F-f-f-frankly, I fink we do," he 
said, and then added abruptly and eagerly as he thrust his clumsy fingers 
through his hair: "W-w-w-wy, what do you say?" 

"Why, yes!" his mother responded with an instant alacrity as she got 
up from her chair. "That's the very thing! A little breath of fresh air 
is just the thing we need as the feller says," she said, turning to Eugene 
now and beginning to laugh slyly, and with pleasure, passing one 
finger shyly underneath her broad red nose-wing as she spoke , "as the 
feller says, it costs nothin' and it's Nature's sovereign remedy, good for 
man and good for beast! So let's all get out into the light of open day 
again," she said with rhetorical deliberation, "and breathe in God's 
fresh air like He intended we should do for there's one thing sure," 
his mother went on in tones of solemn warning, which seemed directed 
to a vast unseen audience of the universe rather than to themselves, 
"there's one thing sure you can't violate the laws of God or na- 
ture," she said decisively, "or you'll pay for it as sure as you're born. 
As sure as you're born," she whispered. "Why, yes, now!" she went on, 
with a start of recollective memory "Here now! Say! Didn't I see 
it wasn't I readin' Why, here, you know, the other day," she went 
on impatiently, as if the subject of these obscure broken references must 
instantly be clear to every one "why, it was in the paper, you know 
this article written by Doctor Royal S. Copeland," his mother said, nod- 
ding her head with deliberate satisfaction over his name, and pronounc- 
ing the full title sonorously with the obvious satisfaction that titles and 
distinctions always gave her "that's who it was all right, sayin' that 
fresh air was the thing that every one must have, and that all of us 
should take good care to " 

"Now, M-m-m-m-mama," said Luke, who had paid no attention at all 
to what she had been saying, but had stood there during all the time she 
was speaking, breathing his large, weary, and unhappy breath, thrusting 
his clumsy fingers through his hair, as his harassed and tormented eyes 
flickered restlessly about the room in a driven but unseeing stare: 
"Now, M-m-m-mama!" he said in a tone of exasperated and frenzied im- 
patience, "if we're g-g-g-going we've g-g-g-got to get started! N-n-n-now 
I d-d-don't mean next W-w-w-w-Wednesday," he snarled, with exas- 
perated sarcasm, "I d-d-d-don't m-m-m-mean the firteenth of next July. 
But now now now" he muttered crazily, coming to her with his 


large hands lifted like claws, the fingers working, and with a look of 
fiendish madness in his eyes. 

"Now!" he whispered hoarsely. "This week! Today! This after- 
noon! A-a-a-a-at once!" he barked suddenly, jumping at her comically, 
then thrusting his hand through his hair again, he said in a weary and 
exasperated . voice : 

"M-m-m-mama, will you please get ready! I b-b-b-beg of you. I be- 
seech you please!" he said, in tortured entreaty. 

"All right! All right!" his mother replied instantly in a tone of the 
heartiest and most conciliatory agreement. "I'll be ready in five minutes! 
I'll just go back here and put on a coat over this old dress so folks won't 
see me," she laughed shyly, "an' I'll be ready before you know it! 
Pshaw, boy!" she now said in a rather nettled tone, as if the afterthought 
of his impatience had angered .her a little, "now you don't need to 
worry about my being ready," she said, "because when the time comes 
I'll be there!" she said, with the loose, deliberate, man-like gesture of 
her right hand and in tones of telling deliberation. "Now you worry 
about yourself!" she said. "For I'll be ready before you are yes, and 
I'm never late for an appointment, either," she said strongly, "and that's 
more than you can say for I've seen you miss 'em time an' time again." 

During all this time Luke had been thrusting his fingers through his 
hair, breathing heavily and unhappily, and pawing and muttering 
over a mass of thumbed envelopes and papers which were covered 
with the undecipherable scrawls and jottings of his nervous hand: 
"T-t-t-Tuesday," he muttered, "Tuesday . . . Tuesday in Blackstone 
B-b-b-b-Blackstone Blackstone Blackstone, South Car'lina," he mut- 
ttered in a confused and distracted manner, as if these names were com- 
pletely meaningless to him, and he had never heard them before. "Now 
ah!" he suddenly sang out in a rich tenor voice, as he lifted his hand, 
thrust his fingers through his hair, and stared wildly ahead of him 
"meet Livermore in Blackstone Tuesday morning see p-p-p-p-prospect 
in G-g-g-g-Gadsby Tuesday afternoon about about about Wheet!" 
here he whistled sharply, as he always did when hung upon a word 
"about a new set of batteries for his Model X Style 37 lighting system 
which the cheap p-p-p-penny-pinching South Car'lina bastard w-w-w- 
wants for nothing Wednesday m-m-m-morning b-b-b-back to Black- 
stone F'ursday . . . w-w-w-wy," he muttered pawing clumsily and con- 
fusedly at his envelopes with a demented glare "F-f-f-f-f ursday you 
ah j-j-j-jump over to C-c-c-Cavendish to t-trf-try to persuade that 


ignorant red-faced nigger-Baptist son-of-a-bitch that it's -f-f-for his own 
b-b-b-best interests to scrap the-the-w-w-w-wy the d-d-d-decrepit pile 
of junk he's been using since S-s-s-Sherman marched through Georgia 
and b-b-b-buy the new X50 model T Style 46 transmission 

"M-m-m-mama!" he cried suddenly, turning toward her with a move- 
ment of frenzied and exasperated entreaty. "Will you please kindly 
have the g-g-g-goodness and the m-m-m-mercy to do me the favor to 
b-b-b-begin to commence w-w-w-w-wy to start to make up your 
mind to get ready," he snarled bitterly. "W-w-w-w-wy sometime before 
midnight I b-b-b-bcg of you ... I beseech you ... I ask it of you p-p-p- 
please, for my sake for all our sakes for God's sake!" he cried with 
frenzied and maddened desperation. 

"All right! All right!" his mother cried hastily in a placating and re- 
assuring tone beginning to move with an awkward, distracted, bridling 
movement that got her nowhere, since there were two doors to the par- 
lor and she was trying to go out both of them at the same time. "All 
right!" she said decisively, at length getting started toward the door 
nearest her. "I'll just go back there an' slip on a coat and /'// be with you 
in a jiffy!" she said with comforting assurance. 

"If you please!" Luke said with an ironic and tormented obsequious- 
ness of entreaty, as he fumbled through his mass of envelopes. "If you 
please! W-w-w-wy I'd certainly be m-m-m-m-much obliged to you if 
you would!" he said. 

At this moment, however, a car halted at the curb outside, some one 
got out, and in a moment more they could hear Helen's voice, as she 
came towards the house, calling back to her husband in tones of exas- 
perated annoyance: 

"All right, Hugh! All right! I'm coming!" although she was really 
going toward the house. "Will you fyndly leave me alone for just a 
moment! Good heavens! Will I never get a little peace? All right! 
All right! I'm coming! For God's sake, leave me done for just five 
minutes, or you'll drive me crazy!" she stormed, and with a high-cracked 
note of frenzied strain and exasperation that was almost like hysteria. 

"All right, Mr. Barton," she now said to her husband in a more 
good-humored tone. "Now you just hold your horses for a minute and 
I'll come on out. The house is not going to burn down before we get 

His lean, seamed, devoted face broke into a slow, almost unwilling 
grin, in which somehow all of the submission, loyalty and goodness of 


his soul was legible, and Helen turned, came up on the porch, opened 
the hall door, and came into the parlor where they were, beginning to 
speak immediately in a tone of frenzied and tortured exacerbation of the 
nerves and with her large, gaunt, liberal features strained to the break- 
ing point of nervous hysteria. 

"My God!" she said in a tone of weary exasperation. "If I don't get 
away from them soon I'm going to lose my mind! . . . From the mo- 
ment that I get up in the morning I never get a moment's peace! Some 
one's after me all day long from morn to night! Why, good heavens, 
Mama!" she cried out in a tone of desperate fury, and as if Eliza 
had contradicted something she had said, "I've got troubles enough 
of my own, without any one else putting theirs on me! Have they 
got no one else they can go to? Haven't they got homej of their 
own to look after? Do I have to bear the burden of it all for every 
one all my life?" she stormed in a voice that was so hoarse, strained and 
exasperated now that she was almost weeping. "Do I have to be the goat 
all my life? Oh, I want a little peace," she cried desperately. "I just 
want to be left alone by myself once in a while! The rest of you don't 
have to worry!" she said accusingly. "You don't have to stand for it. 
You can get away from it!" she cried,, "You don't know you don't 
J(nowl" she said furiously, "what I put up with but if I don't get away 
from it soon, I'm going all to pieces." 

During all the time that Helen had been pouring out her tirade of the 
wrongs and injuries that had been inflicted on her, Luke had acted as a 
kind of dutiful and obsequious chorus, punctuating all the places where 
she had to pause to pant for breath, with such remarks as 

"W-\v-w-w-well, you d-d-do too much for every one and they don't 
appreciate it that's the trouble," or, "I f-f-f-f-fink I'd tell them all to 
p-p-p-p-politely step to hell f-f-frankly I fink you owe it to yourself to 
do it! W-w-w-wy you'll only w-w-w-wear yourself out doing for others 
and in the end you d-d-d-don't get so m-m-m-much as one good God- 
damn for all your trouble! F-f-f-frankly, I mean it!" he would say with 
a very earnest look on his harassed and drawn face. "W-w-w-wy here- 
after I'd let 'em g-g-g-g-go to hell ! " 

"If they'd only show a little appreciation once in a while I wouldn't 
mind so much," she panted. "But do you think they care? Do you think 
it ever occurs to them to lift a hand to help me when they see me work- 
ing my fingers to the bone for them? Why," and here her big-boned 
generous face worked convulsively, "if I should work myself to death for 


them, do you think any of them would even so much as send a bunch 
of flowers to the funeral?" 

Luke laughed with jeering scorn: "W-w-w-wy," he said, "it is to 
laugh! It is to laugh! They w-w-wouldn't send a G-g-g-g-God-damn 
thing n-n-n-not even a ten-cent b-b-b-bunch of-of-w-w-w-w-wy of 
turnip-greens!" he said. 

"All right! All right!" Helen again cried furiously through the door, 
as Barton sounded a long imperative blast of protest and impatience on 
his horn. "All right, Hugh! I'm coming! Good heavens, can't you 
leave me in peace for just five minutes! , . . Hugh, please! Please!" she 
stormed in a tone of frenzied exasperation as he sourly answered her. 
"Give me a little time alone, I beg of you or I'll go mad!" And she 
turned to them again, panting and with the racked and strained expres- 
sion of hysteria on her big-boned features. In a moment, her harassed 
and driven look relaxed somewhat, and the big rough bawdy smile be- 
gan to shape itself again around the corners of her generous mouth. 

"My God, Mama," she said in a tone of quiet and weary despair, but 
with this faint lewd smile about her mouth and growing deeper as she 
spoke, "what am I going to do about it? Will you please tell me that? 
Did you have to put up with that when you and Papa were together ? Is 
that the way it is ? Is there no such thing as peace and privacy in this 
world? Now, I'd like to know. When you marry one of them, does 
that mean that you'll never get a moment's peace or privacy alone as long 
as you live? Now, there are some things you like to do alone" she said, 
and by this time the lewd smile had deepened perceptibly around her 
mouth. "Why, it's got so," she said, "that I'm almost afraid to go to the 
bath-room anymore " 

"Whew-w!" shrieked Eliza, laughing, putting one finger underneath 
her nose. 

"Yes, sir," Helen said quietly, with the lewd smile now deep and loose 
around her mouth. "I've just got so I'm almost afraid to go, I don't know 
from one moment to the next whether one of them is going to come in 
and keep me company or not." 

"Whew!" Eliza cried. "Why, you'll have to put up signs! 'No Visitors 
Allowed!' that's exactly what you ought to say! I'd fix 'em! I'd do it 
like a shot," she said. 

Helen sniggered hoarsely, and absently began to pluck at her chin. 


"But oh!" she said with a sigh. "If only they'd leave me alone an hour 
a day! If only I could get away for just an hour " 

"W-w-w-wy!" Luke began. "Why don't you c-c-come with us! F-f-f- 
frankly, I fink you ought to do it! I fink the change would do you good," 
he said, 

"Why?" she said rather dully, yet curiously. "Where are you going?" 

"W-w-w-wy," he said, "we were just starting for a little ride. . . . 
Mama!" he burst out suddenly in a tone of exasperated entreaty "Will 
you k-k-k-kindly go and get yourself ready ? W-w-wy, its g-g-g-going to 
get d-d-d-dark before we get started," he said bitterly, as if she had kept 
him waiting all this time. "Now, please I b-b-b-beg of you to g-g-g- 
get ready wy-wy-wy without f-f-f-further delay now, I ask it of you, 
for God's sake!" he said, and then turning to Helen with a movement of 
utter exasperation and defeat, he shuddered convulsively, thrust his 
fingers through his hair, and moaned "Ah-h-h-h-h-h!" after which he 
began to mutter "My God! My God! My God!" 

"All right, sir! All right!" Eliza said briskly, in a conciliating tone. 
'Til just go right back here and put my coat and hat on and I won't keep 
you waitin' five " 

"Wy, wy, wy. If you p-p-please, Mama," said Luke with a tortured 
and ironic bow. "If you p-p-please." 

At length, they really did get out of the house and were assembled on 
the curb in the last throes of departure. Luke, breathing stertorously his 
large unhappy breath, began to walk about his battered little car, casting 
uneasy and worried looks at it and falling upon it violently from time 
to time, kicking it in the tires with his large flat feet, smiting it with a 
broad palm and seizing it by the sides and shaking it so savagely that its 
instant dissolution seemed inevitable. Meanwhile Eliza stood planted 
solidly, facing her house, her hands clasped loosely at the waist, and her 
powerful and delicate mouth pursed reflectively as she surveyed her 
property a characteristic gesture that always marked every departure 
from the house and every return to it, in which the whole power and 
relish of possession was evident. As for Barton, while these inevitable 
ceremonies were taking place, he just sat in his car with a kind of sour 
resigned patience, and waited. And Helen, while this was going on, 
had taken Eugene by the arm and walked a few paces down the street 
with him, talking all the time in a broken and abstracted way, of which 
the reference could only be inferred: 


"You see, don't you? . . . You see what I've got to put up with, don't 
you? . . . You only get it for a little while when you come here, but 
with me it's all the time and all the time" Suddenly she turned to him, 
looked him directly in the eye, and speaking quietly to him, but with a 
curious, brooding and disturbing inflection in her voice, she said: 

"Do you know what day this is?" 


"Do you realize that Ben died five years ago this morning? I was 
thinking of it yesterday when she was talking about getting that room 
ready for those people who are coming," she muttered, and with a note 
of weary bitterness in her voice. For a moment her big-boned face was 
marked with the faint tension of hysteria, and her eyes looked dark and 
lustreless and strained as she plucked absently at her large chin. "But 
do you see how she can do it?" she went on in a low tone of brooding 
and weary resignation. "Do you understand how she can ever bear to go 
back in there ? Do you see how she can rent that room out to any cheap 
roomer who comes along? Do you realize that she's got the same bed in 
there he died on," she said morbidly, "the same mattress? K-k-k-k- 
k-k!" she laughed softly and huskily, poking at his ribs. "She'll have you 
sleeping on it next" 

"I'll be damned if she does!" 


"Do you think I could be sleeping on it now!" Eugene said with a 
feeling of black horror and dread around his heart. 

"K-k-k-k-k-k!" she snickered. "Would you like that? Would you sleep 
better if you knew it was? . . . No," she said quietly, shaking her head. 
"Uh-uh. I don't think so. It's still up there in the same room. She may 
have painted the bed, but otherwise I don't think she's changed a thing. 
Have you ever been back up there since he died ?" she said curiously, 

"My God, no! Have you?" 

She shook her head: "Not I," she said with weary finality. "I've never 
even been up-stairs since that morning. . . . Hugh hates the place," she 
muttered, looking towards him. "He doesn't even like to stop and wait 
for me. He won't come in." 

Then she was silent for a moment as they looked at the gaunt ugly 
bay of the room upstairs where Ben had died. In the yard the maple 
trees were thinning rapidly; the leaves were sere and yellow and were 
floating to the ground. And the old house stood there in all its ugly, 
harsh, and prognathous bleakness, its paint of rusty yellow scaling from 


it in patches, and weathered and dilapidated as Eugene had never seen 
it before, but incredibly near, incredibly natural and familiar, so that all 
its ghosts of pain and grief and bitterness, its memories of joy and magic 
and lost time, the thousand histories of all the vanished people it had 
sheltered, whom all of them had known, revived instantly with an in- 
tolerable and dream-like strangeness and familiarity. 

And now, as they looked up at the bleak windows of the room in 
which he died, the memory of his death's black horror passed across their 
souls a minute, and then was gone, leaving them only with the fatality 
of weary resignation which they had learned from it. In a moment, with 
a look of ancient and indifferent weariness and grief in her eyes, Helen 
turned to him, and with a faint rough smile, around her mouth, said 

"Does he ever bother you at night ? When the wind begins to howl 
around the house, do you ever hear him walking up there? Has he 
been in to see you yet? K-k-k-k-k-k!" she poked him with her big stiff 
finger, laughing huskily, and then in a low, sombrely brooding tone, as 
if the grisly suggestion were his, she shook her head, saying: 

"Forget about it! They don't come back, Eugene! I used to think they 
did, but now I know they never do. He won't come," she muttered, as 
she shook her head. "Forget about it. He won't come. Just forget about 
it," she continued, looking at Eliza with weary resignation. "It's not 
her fault. I used to think that you could change them. But you can't. 
Uh-uh," she muttered, plucking at her large, cleft chin. "It can't be 
done. They never change." 

Luke stood distractedly for a moment on the curbstone, breathing his 
large unhappy breath and thrusting his clumsy fingers strongly through 
the flashing whirls and coils of his incredible hair : 

"Now ah!" he sang out richly. "Let me see! I wy I fink! M-m-m- 
mama, if you please!" he said. "Wy if you please!" with an exasperated 
and ironic obsequiousness. 

She had been standing there, planted squarely on the sidewalk, facing 
her house. She stood with her hands clasped loosely across her stomach, 
and as she looked at the gaunt weathered shape of the old house, her 
mouth was puckered in an expression of powerful rumination in which 
the whole terrible legend of blood and hunger and desperate tenacity 
the huge clutch of property and possession which, with her, was like the 
desperate clutch of life itself was evident. 

What was this great claw in her life this thing that was stronger 


than life or death or motherhood which made her hold on to anything 
which had ever come into her possession, which made her cling desper- 
ately to everything which she had ever owned old bottles, papers, pieces 
of string, worn-out gloves with all the fingers missing, frayed cast-off 
sweaters which some departed boarder had left behind him, postcards, 
souvenirs, sea-shells, cocoanuts, old battered trunks, dilapidated furni- 
ture which could be no longer used, calendars for the year 1906, showing 
coy maidens simpering sidewise out beneath the crisply ruffled pleatings 
of a Japanese parasol a mountainous accumulation of old junk for 
which the old dilapidated house had now become a fit museum. 

Then in the wink of an eye she would pour thousands of dollars after 
the crazy promises of boom-town real-estate speculation that by com- 
parison made the wildest infatuation of a drunken race-track gambler 
look like the austere process of a coldly reasoning mind. 

Even as she stood there staring at her house with her pursed mouth of 
powerful and ruminant satisfaction, another evidence of this madness 
of possession was staring in their face. At the end of the alley slope, be 
hind the house, there was a dilapidated old shed or house of white- 
washed boards, which had been built in earlier times as a carriage house. 
Now through the open entrance of this shed, they could see the huge 
and dusty relic of Eliza's motor car. She had bought it four years before, 
and bought it instantly one day before they knew about it, and paid 
$2000 in hard cash for it and why she bought it, what mad compulsion 
of her spirit made her buy it, no one knew, and least of all Eliza. 

For from that day to this that car had never left the carriage house. 
Year by year, in spite of protests, oaths, and prayers, and all their frantic 
pleading, she had got no use from it herself, and would let no one else 
use it. No, what is more, she had even refused to sell it later, although 
a man had made her a good offer. Rather she pursed her lips reflectively, 
smiled in a bantering fashion, and said evasively: "Well, I'll see now! 
Ill think it over! I want to study about it a little you come back later 
and I'll let you know! ... I want to think about it!" as if, by hanging 
on to this mass of rusty machinery, she hoped it would increase in value 
and that she could sell it some day for twice the price she paid for it, if 
only she "held on" long enough. 

And at first they had all wrestled by turns with the octopal convolu- 
tions of her terrific character, exhausting all the strength and energy 
in them against the substance of a will that was like something which 
always gave and never yielded, which could be grasped, compressed, and 


throttled in the hard grip of their furious hands, only to bulge out in new 
shapes and forms and combinations which flowed, gave, withdrew, 
receded and advanced, but which remained itself forever, and beat 
everything before it in the end. 

Now, for a moment, as Luke saw the car he was goaded into the old 
madness of despair. Thrusting his fingers through his hair, and with a 
look of desperate exasperation in his tortured eyes, he began, "M-m-m- 
mama M-m-m-mama I beg of you, I wy I entreat you, w-w-w-wy 
I beseech you either to s-s-s-sell that God-damn thing or wy g-g-g-get 
a little s-s-service out of it." 

"Well, now," Eliza said quickly and in a conciliating tone, "we'll see 
about it!" 

"S-s-s-see about it!" he stammered bitterly. "See about it! In G-g-g- 
God's name, what is there to see about! M-m-m-mama, the car's there 
there there " he muttered crazily, poking his clumsy finger in a series 
of jerky and convulsive movements in the direction of the carriage house. 
"It's there!" he croaked madly. "C-c-c-can't you understand that? 
W-w-w-wy, it's rotting away on its God-damn wheels M-m-m-mama, 
will you please get it into your head that it's not g-g-g-going to do you 
or any one else any good unless you take it out and use it?" 

"Well, as I say now" she began hastily, and in a diplomatic tone of 

"M-m-m-m-mama" he began, again thrusting at his hair "wy, I 
beg of you I beseech you to sell it, g-g-g-give it away, or wy-wy-wy try 
to get a little use out of it! Let me take it out and drive you round the 
block in it w-w-w-wy just once! Just once! F-f-f-frankly, I'd like to 
have the satisfaction of knowing you'd had that much out of it!" he said. 
"Wy, I'll p-p-p-pay for the gas, if that's what's worrying you! Wy, I'll 
do it with pleasure! . . . But just let me take it out of that G-g-g-g-God- 
damn place if all if all wy if all I do is drive you to the corner! Now, 
please!" he begged, with an almost frantic note of entreaty. 

"Why, no, boy!" she cried out in a startled tone. "We can't do that!" 

"C-c-c-can't do that!" he stuttered bitterly. "Wy, in G-g-g-g-God's 
name, why can't we?" 

"I'd be afra-a-id!" she said with a little troubled smile, as she shook 
her head. "Hm! I'd be afraid!" 

"Wy-wy-wy-wy afraid!" he yelled. "Wy, what's there to be afraid of, 
*n God's name?" 

"I'd be afraid you'd do something to it," she said with her troubled 


smile. "I'd be afraid you'd smash it up or run over some one with it. 
No, child," she said gravely, as she shook her head. "I'd be afraid to let 
you drive it. You're too nervous." 

"Ah-h-h-h-h-h!" he breathed clutching convulsively in his hair as his 
eyes flickered madly about in his head. "Ah-h-h-h-h! M-m-m-merciful 
God!" he muttered. "M-m-m-m-m-merciful God!" and then laughed 
wildly, frantically, and bitterly. 

Now Helen spoke curiously, plucking reflectively at her large chin, 
but with weariness and resignation in her accent as if already she knew 
the answer: 

"Mama, what are you going to do with your car ? It seems a shame to 
let it rot away back there after you've paid out all that money for it. 
Aren't you going to try to get any use out of it at all?" 

"Well, now, as I say," Eliza began smugly, pursing her lips with 
ruminative relish as she looked into the air, "I'm just waitin' for the 
chance I'm just waitin' till the first fine day to come along and then, 
I've got a good notion to take that thing out and learn to run it myself." 

"Oh, Mama," Helen began quietly and wearily, "good heavens " 

"Why, yes!" Eliza cried nodding her head briskly. "I could do it! 
Now, I can do most anything when I make my mind up to it! Now I've 
never seen anything yet I couldn't do if I had to ! ... So I'm just waitin' 
until spring comes round again, and I'm goin' to take that car out and 
drive it all around," she said. "I'm just goin' to sit up there an' enjoy 
the scenery an' have a big time," said Eliza with her little tremulous 
smile. "That's what I'm goin' to do," she said. 

"All right," Helen said wearily. "Have it your own way. Do as you 
please: it's your own funeral! Only it seems a shame to let it go to waste 
after you've spent all that money on it." 

But turning to Eugene, and speaking in a lowered tone, she said to 
him, with the faint tracing of hysteria on her big-decent face, and 
weariness and resignation in her voice : 

"Well, what are you going to do about it ? I used to think that you 
could change her, but now I know she never will. . . . I've given up 
trying. It's no use," she muttered. "It's no use. I worked my fingers to the 
bone to help them save a nickel and you see what comes of it. ... I 
did the work of a nigger in the kitchen from the time I was ten years old 
and you see what comes of it, don't you ? I went off and sang my way 
around the country in cheap moving-picture shows . . . and came up 
here and waited on the tables to help feed a crowd of cheap boarders 


and Luke sold The Saturday Evening Post, and peddled hot dogs and 
toy balloons and you got up at three o'clock, carried the morning paper 
and they let Ben go to hell until his lungs were gone and it was too 
late and you see what it all comes to in the end, don't you ? . . . It's all 
given away to real-estate men or thrown away for automobiles they 
never use. I've given up worrying," she said. "I don't think about it any 
more. . . . They don't change," she muttered. "I used to think they did 
but now I know they don't. Uh-uh. They don't change! . . . Well, 
forget about it," and she turned wearily away. 

The year Eliza bought the car, Eugene had been eighteen years old, 
and was a Junior at the State University. When he came home that 
year, he asked her if she would let him learn to drive it. It was about the 
time when every one in town was beginning to own motor cars. When 
he walked up town, every one he knew would drive by him in an auto- 
mobile. Every one on earth was beginning to live upon a wheel. Some- 
how it gave him a naked and desolate feeling, as if he had nowhere to 
go, and no door to enter. When he asked her if she would let him take 
the car out and learn to drive it, she had looked at him a moment with 
her hands clasped loosely at the waist, her head cocked quizzically to 
one side, and the little tremulous and bantering smile that had always 
filled him with such choking exasperation and wordless shame, and 
somehow with a nameless and intolerable pity, too, because behind it 
he felt always her high white forehead, and her faded, weak, and child- 
like eyes, the naked intelligence, whiteness, and immortal innocence 
of the child that was looking straight through the mask of years with 
all the deathless hope and faith and confidence of her life and character. 

Now, for the last time, he asked her again the question he had asked 
with such an earnest hope so many times before. And instantly, as if 
he had dreamed her answer, she replied the same reply that she had 
always made, the only reply the invincible procrastination of her soul 
could make. 

"Hm!" she said, making the bantering and humming noise in her 
throat as she looked at him. "Wha-a-a-t! Why, you're my ba-a-a-byl" she 
said with jesting earnestness, as she laid her strong worn hand loosely 
on his shoulder. "No, sir!" she said quickly and quietly, shaking her 
head in a swift side-ways movement. "I'd be ajra-a-id, afraid," she 

"Mama, afraid of what?" 

"Why, child," she said gravely, "I'd be afraid you'd go and hurt your- 


self. Uh-uh," she shook her head quickly and shortly. "I'd be afraid to 
let you try it well, we'll see," she said, turning it off easily in an evasive 
and conciliatory tone. "We'll see about it. I'd like to study about it a 
little first." 

After that, there was nothing to do except to curse and beat their fists 
into the wall. And after that there was nothing to do at all. She had 
beaten them all, and they knew it. Their curses, prayers, oaths, persua- 
sions and strangled cries availed them nothing. She had beaten them 
all, and finally they spoke no more to her or to themselves about 
her motor car: the gigantic folly of that mad wastefulness evoked for 
them all memories so painful, desolate and tragic a memory of the 
fatality of blood and nature which could not be altered, of the done 
which could be undone never, and of the web of fate in which their 
lives were meshed that they knew there was no guilt, no innocence, no 
victory, and no change. They were what they were, and they had no 
more to say. 

So was it now as she stood planted there before her house. As she had 
grown older, her body had grown clumsier with the shapeless heaviness 
of age: as she stood there with her hands clasped in this attitude of 
ruminant relish, she seemed to be planted solidly on the pavement, and 
somehow to own, inhabit, and possess the very bricks she walked on. She 
owned the street, the pavement, and finally her terrific ownership of the 
house was as apparent as if the house were living and could speak to her. 
For the rest of them that old bleak house had now so many memories of 
grief and death and intolerable, incurable regret that in their hearts they 
hated it; but although she had seen a son strangle to death in one of its 
bleak rooms, she loved the house as if it were a part of her own life as 
it was and her love for it was greater than her love for anv one or 
anything else on earth. 

And yet, for her, even if that house, the whole world, fell in ruins 
around her, there could be no ruin her spirit was as everlasting as the 
earth on which she walked, and could not be touchedno matter what 
catastrophes of grief, death, tragic loss, and unfulfilment might break 
the lives of other men she was triumphant over the ravages of time and 
accident, and would be triumphant to her death. For there was only the 
inevitable fulfilment of her own destiny and ruin, loss, and death 
availed not she would be fulfilled. She had lived ten lives, and now 
she was embarked upon another one, and so it had been ordered in the 
beginning: this was all that mattered in the end. 


But now, Luke, seeing her, as she stood planted there in all-engulfing 
summation, thrust his hands distractedly through his shining hair again, 
and cried to her with exasperated entreaty : 

"W-w-w-wy, Mama, if you please! I b-b-b-beg of you and beseech you, 
if you please!" 

"I'm ready!" Eliza cried, starting arid turning from her powerful con- 
templation of her house. "This very minute, sir! Come on!" 

"Wy, if you p-p-p-please!" he muttered, thrusting at his hair. 

They walked towards his car, which he had halted in the alley-way 
beside the house. A few leaves, sere and yellow, from the maples in the 
yard, were drifting slowly to the ground. 


During all that time, when he was waiting with a desperate hope that 
rose each day to the frenzy of a madman's certitude, and sank each day 
to the abyss of his despair, for the magic letter which was coming to 
him from the city, and which would instantly give him all the fortune, 
fame, and triumph for which his soul was panting, his family looked at 
him with troubled question in their eyes. His enthusiastic hopes and 
assurances of the great success that he would have from writing plays 
seemed visionary and remote to them. Perhaps they were right about 
this, although the reason that they had for thinking so was wrong. 

Thus, although they said little to Eugene at this time about his plans 
for the future, and what they did say was meant to hearten him, their 
doubt and disbelief was evident, and sometimes when he came into the 
house, he could hear them talking in a troubled way about him: 

"Mama," he heard his sister say one day, as she sat talking with his 
mother in the kitchen, "what does Gene intend to do ? Have you heard 
him say yet?" 

"Why, no-o-o!" his mother answered slowly, in a puzzled and medita- 
tive tone. "He hasn't said. At least he says he's goin' to write plays, 
of course, I reckon he's waiting to hear from those people in New York 
about that play he's written," she added quickly. 

"Well, I know," his sister answered wearily. "That's all very fine if 
he can do it. But, good heavens, Mama!" she cried furiously -"you 
can't live on hope like that! Gene's only one out of a million! Can't you 
realize that? Why, they used to think I had some talent as a singe*-" 
here she laughed ironically, a husky high falsetto, "I used to think so, 


myself out you don't notice that it ever got me anywhere, do you ? No, 
sir!" she said positively. "There are thousands more just like Gene, who 
are trying to get ahead and make a name for themselves. Why should 
he think he's any better than the rest of them ? Why, it might be years 
before he got a play produced and even then, how can he tell that it 
would be a success? What's he going to live on? How's he going to 
keep going until all this happens? What's he going to do? You know, 
Mama, Gene's no little boy any more. Please get that into your head," 
she said sharply, as if her mother had questioned the accuracy of her re- 
mark. "No, sir! No, sir!" she laughed ironically and huskily. "Your baby 
is a grown man, and it's time he waked up to the fact that he's got to 
support himself from now on. Mama, do you realize that it has been 
over four months since Gene left Harvard and, so far as I can see, he has 
made no effort yet to get a job. What does he intend to do?" she said 
angrily. "You know, he just can't mope around like this all his days! 
Sooner or later he's got to find some work to do!" 

In all these words, there was apparent not so much hostility and an- 
tagonism as the driving fury and unrest of Helen's nervous, exacerbated, 
dissonant, and unhappy character, which could lavish kindness and af- 
fection one moment, and abuse and criticism the next. These were 
really only signs of the frenzy and unrest in her large, tortured, but im- 
mensely generous spirit. Thus, she would rage and storm at her hus- 
band at one moment for "moping about the house," telling him, "for 
heaven's sake am I never to be left alone! Am I never to get a moment's 
peace or quiet? Must I have you around me every moment of my life? 
In God's name, Hugh go! go! go! Leave me alone for a few minutes, 
I beg of you!" and by this time his sister's voice would be cracked and 
strident, her breath coming hoarsely and almost with a sob of hysteria. 
And yet, she could be just as violent in her sense of wrong and injustice 
done to her if she thought he was giving too much time to business, 
rushing through his meals, reading a book when he should be listening 
to her tirade, or staying away from home too much. 

Poor, tortured, and unhappy spirit, with all the grandeur, valor, and 
affection that Eugene knew so well, it had found, since her father's 
death, no medicine for the huge and constant frenzy of its own unrest, 
no guide or savior to work for it the miracle of salvation it must work 
itself, and it turned and lashed out at the world, demanding a loneliness 
which it could not have endured for three days running, a peace and 
quiet from its own fury, a release from its' own injustice. And it was for 


iis reason because her own unrest and frenzy made her lash out 
instantly against the world, praising one week, condemning the next, 
:cusing life and people of doing her some injury or wrong that she had 
one herself it was for this reason, more than for any other, that Helen 
ow lashed out about Eugene to their mother. 

And because Eugene was strung on the same wires, shaped from the 
ime clay, cut from the same kind and plan and quality, he stood there 
i the hall-way as he heard her, his face convulsed and livid, his limbs 
embling with rage, his bowels and his heart sick and trembling with a 
ideous gray nausea of hopelessness and despair, his throat choking with 
n intolerable anguish of resentment and wrong, as he heard Helen's 
oice, and before he rushed back into the kitchen to quarrel with her 
nd his mother. 

"Well, now," he heard his mother say in a diplomatic and hopeful 
>ne that somehow only served to increase his feeling of rage and exas- 
eration "well, now well, now," she said, "let's wait and see! Let's 
fait and see what happens with this play. Perhaps he'll hear tomorrow 
lat they have taken it. Maybe it's going to be all right, after all!" 

"Going to be all right!" Eugene fairly screamed at this juncture, rush- 
ig in upon them in the kitchen. "You're God-damned right it's going 
> be all right. I'll tell you what's all right!" he panted, because his 
reath was laboring against his ribs as if he had run up a steep hill "if 

was some damned real-estate man, that would be all right! If it's some 
heap shyster lawyer, that would be all right! If it was some damned 
iscal sitting on his tail up here in the bank, cheating you out of all 
ou've got, that would be all right hey?" he snarled, conscious that his 
fords had no meaning or coherence, but unable to utter any of the 
lings he wished to say and that welled up in that wave of hot and chok- 
ig resentment. "O yes! The big man! The great man! The big 
eacon Mr. Scroop Pegram the big bank president that would be 
11 right, wouldn't it?" he cried in a choked and trembling voice. "You'd 
et down on your hands and knees, and crawl if he spoke to you, would- 
't you? 'O thank you, Mr. Pegram, for letting me put my money in 
our bank so you can loan it out to a bunch of God-dam real-estate 
rooks,' " he sneered, in an infuriated parody of whining servility. 
'Thank you, sir,' " he said, and in spite of the fact that these words 
lade almost no coherent meaning, his mother began to purse her lips 
ipidly in an excited fashion, and his sister's big-boned face reddened 
nth anger. 


"Now," his mother said sternly, as she levelled her index finger at 
him, "I want to tell you something! You may sneer all you please, sir, at 
Scroop Pegram, but he's a man who has worked all his life for every- 
thing he has " 

"Yes," Eugene said bitterly, "and for everything you have, too for 
that's where it's going in the end." 

"He has made his own way since his childhood," Eliza continued 
sternly and deliberately "no one ever did anything for him, for there's 
one thing sure : there was no one in his family who was in a position 
to do it. What he's done he's done for himself, without assistance and," 
his mother said in a stern and telling voice, "without education for he 
never had three months' schoolin' in his life and today he's got the re- 
spect of the community as much as any man I know." 

"Yes! And most of their money, too," Eugene cried. 

"You'd better not talk!" Helen said. "If I were you I wouldn't talk! 
Don't criticize other people until you show you've got it in you to do 
something for yourself," she said. 

"You! You!" Eugene panted. "I'll show you! Talking about me 
when my back is turned, hey? That's the kind you are! All right! 
You wait and see! I'll show you!" he said, in a choked and trembling 
whisper of fury and resentment. 

"All right," Helen said in a hard and hostile voice. "I'll wait and 
see. I hope you do. But you've got to show me that you've got it in 
you. It's time for you to quit this foolishness and get a job! Don't 
criticize other people until you show you've got it in you to support 
yourself," she said. 

"No," said Eliza, "for we've done as much for you as we are able 
to. You've had as good an education as any one could want and now 
the rest is up to you," she said sternly. "I've got no more money to pay 
out on you, so you can make your mind up to it from now on," she said. 
"You've got to shift for yourself." 

And in the warm and living silence of the kitchen, they looked at one 
another for a moment, all three, breathing heavily, and with hard and 
bitter eyes. 

"Well, Gene," Helen said, "I know. Try to forget about it. You'll 
change as you grow older," she said wearily. "We've all been like that. 
We all have these wonderful ambitions to be somebody famous, but that 
all changes. I had them, too," she said. "I was going to be a great singer, 
and have a career in opera, but that's all over now, and I know I never 


will. You forget about it," she said quietly and wearily. "It all seems 
wonderful to you, and you think that you can't live without it, but you 
forget about it. Oh, of course you will!" she muttered, "of course! Why 
!" she cried, shaking Eugene furiously, and now her voice had its old 
hearty and commanding ring, "I'm going to beat you if you act like 
this! What if they don't take your play! I'll bet that has happened to 
plenty of people Yes, sir!" she cried. "I'll bet that has happened to all 
of them when they started out and then they went on and made a big 
success of it later! Why, if those people didn't take my play," she said, 
"I'd sit down and write another one so good they'd be ashamed of them- 
selves! Why, you're only a kid yet!" she cried furiously, shaking Eu- 
gene, and frowning fiercely but with her tongue stuck out a little and a 
kind of grin on her big-boned liberal-looking face. "Don't you know 
that! You've got loads of time yet! Your life's ahead of you! Of course 
you will! Of course you will!" she cried, shaking him. "Don't let a thing 
like this get you down! In ten years' time you'll look back on all this 
and laugh to think you were ever such a fool! Of course you will!" 
and then as her husband, who had driven up before their mother's 
house, now sounded on the horn for her, she said again, in the quiet 
and weary tone: "Well, Gene, forget about it! Life's too short! I know," 
she said mysteriously, "I know!" 

Then, as she started to go, she added casually, "Honey, come on over 
for supper, if you want to. Now, it's up to you. You can suit yourself! 
You can do exactly as you please," she said in the almost hard, deliber- 
ately indifferent tone with which she usually accompanied these invi- 
tations : 

"What would you like to eat ?" she now said meditatively. "How about 
a nice thick steak," she said juicily, as she winked at him. "I've got the 
whole half of a fried chicken left over from last night, that you can have 
if you come over! Now, it's up to you!" she cried out again in that al- 
most hard challenging tone, as if he had shown signs of unwillingness 
or refusal. "I'm not going to urge you, but you're welcome to it if you 
want to come. How about a big dish full of string beans some mashed 
potatoes some stewed corn, and asparagus! How'd you like some 
great big wonderful sliced tomatoes with mayonnaise? I've got a big 
deep peach and apple cobbler in the oven do you think that'd go good 
smoking hot with a piece of butter and a hunk of American cheese?" 
she said, winking at him and smacking her lips comically. "Would that 
hit the spot? Hey?" she said, prodding him in the ribs with he* 


stiff fingers and then saying in a hoarse, burlesque, and nasal tone, in 
extravagant imitation of a girl they knew who had gone to New York, 
and had come back talking with the knowing, cock-sure nasal tone of 
the New Yorker. 

"Ah, fine, boys!" Helen said, in this burlesque tone. "Fine! Just like 
they give you in New York!" she said. Then turning away indifferently, 
she went down the steps, and across the walk towards her husband's 
car, calling back in an almost hard and aggressive tone: 

"Well, you can do exactly as you like! No one is going to urge you 
to come if you don't want to!" 

Then she got in the car, and they drove swiftly off down hill, turned 
the corner, and vanished. 

The reason, in fact, which argued in Eugene's family's mind against 
his succeeding in the work he wished to do, was the very thing that 
should have been all in his favor. But neither he nor his family thought 
so. It was this : a writer, they thought, should be a wonderful, mysteri- 
ous, and remote sort of person some one they had never known, like 
Irvin S. Cobb. "Now, this boy," they argued in their minds, "our son 
and brother, is neither wonderful, mysterious, nor remote. We know all 
about him, we all grew up together here, and there's no use talking 
he's the same kind of people that we are. His father was a stone-cutter 
a man who was born on a farm and had to work all his life with his 
hands. And five of his father's brothers were also stone-cutters, and had 
to earn their living in the same way by the sweat of their brow. And 
his mother is a hard-working woman who brought up a big family, runs 
a boarding house and has had to scrape and save and labor all her life. 
Every one in this part of the country knows her family : her brothers are 
respected business men in town here, and there are hundreds of her kins- 
folk farmers, storekeepers, carpenters, lumber dealers, and the like 
all through this section. Now, they're all good, honest, decent, self-re- 
specting people no one can say they're not but there's never been a 
writer in the crowd. No and no doctors or lawyers either. Now there 
may have been a preacher or two his Uncle Bascom was a preacher 
and a highly educated man too, always poking his nose into a book, and 
went to Harvard, and all, yes, and now that we remember, always had 
queer notions like this boy had to leave the church, you know, for be- 
ing an agnostic, and was always writing poems, and all such as that. 
Well, this fellow is one of the same kind a great book reader but with 


no practical business sense and it seems to us he ought to get a job 
somewhere teaching school, or maybe some newspaper work which 
he could do or, perhaps, he should have studied law." 

So did their minds work on this subject. Yet the very argument they 
made that he was the same kind of person as the rest of them, and not 
remote, wonderful, or mysterious should have been the chief thing in 
his favor. But none of them could see this. For where they thought 
there was nothing wonderful or mysterious about them, he thought 
that there was; and none of them could see that his greatest asset, his 
greatest advantage, if he had any, was that he was made out of the same 
earth the same blood, bone, character, and fury as the rest of them. 
For, could they only have known it, the reason he read all the books was 
not, as they all thought, because he was a bookish person, for he was not, 
but for the same reason that his mother was mad about property- 
talked, thought, felt, and dreamed about real estate all the time, and 
wanted to own the earth just as he wanted to devour it. Again, the fury 
that had made him read the books was the same thing that drove his 
brothers and his sisters around incessantly, feeding the huge fury of theii 
own unrest, and making them talk constantly and to every one, until 
they knew all about the lives of all the butchers, bakers, merchants, law- 
yers, doctors, Greek restaurant owners, and Italian fruit dealers in the 

If they had understood this that he had the same thing in him that 
they all had in them they would have understood about his want- 
ing to be a writer, and even the trouble in which presently he would in- 
volve himself, and that seemed so catastrophic and disgraceful to him 
at that time, would not have seemed so bad to them, for his father, one 
of his brothers, and several of his kinsmen had been in this same trouble 
and it had caused no astonishment at all. . But now that he had done 
this thing now that the one they looked on as the scholar, and the 
bookish person, had done it it was as if the leading deacon of the 
church had been caught in a raid on a bawdy house. 

Finally, there was to be some irony for Eugene later in the fact that, 
had he only known it and grasped it ; there was ready to his use in that 
one conflict all of the substance and energy of the human drama, and that 
the only thing that was wonderful or important was that they were all 
full of the passion, stupidity, energy, hope, and folly of living men- 
fools, angels, guiltless and guilty all together, not to be praised or 
blamed, but just blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling the whole 


swarming web of life and error in full play and magnificently alive. As 
for the fancied woes and hardships of the young artist in conflict with 
the dull and brutal philistines, that, he saw later, had had nothing to 
do with it, and was not worth a damn, any more than the plays that 
had been written in Professor Hatcher's class, and in which a theatrical 
formula for living was presented in place of life. No; the conflict, the 
comedy, the tragedy, the pain, the pride, the folly and the error 
might have been just the same had Eugene wanted to be an aviator, a 
deep-sea diver, a bridge-builder, a professional pall-bearer, or a locomo- 
tive engineer. And the stutf of life was there in all its overwhelming 
richness, was right there in his grasp, but he could not see it, and would 
not use it. Instead he went snooping and prowling around the sterile 
old brothels of the stage, mistaking the glib concoctions of a counterfeit 
emotion for the very flesh and figure of reality. And this also has been 
true of every youth that ever walked the earth. 

The letter came at length one gray day in late October; and instantly, 
when he had opened it, and read the first words "We regret," his life 
went gray as that gray day, and he thought that he would never have 
heart or hope nor know the living joy of work again. His flesh went 
dead and cold and sick, yet he read the smooth lying phrases in the let- 
ter with the stolid face with which people usually receive bad news, and 
even tried to insinuate a thread of hope, to suck a kind of meagre and 
hopeless comfort from the hard, yet oily, words, "We are looking for- 
ward with great interest to reading your next play, and we hope you 
will send it to us as soon as it is completed." . . . "Our members were 
divided in their opinion, four voting to reconsider it, and five for rejec- 
tion . . . although all were agreed on the freshness and vitality of the 
writing . . . while the power of some of the scenes is undeniable . . . 
we must reluctantly. . . . You are one of the young men whose work 
we are watching with the greatest interest . . ." and so on. 

Those on whom the naked weight of shame has rested, who have felt 
its gray and hideous substance in their entrails, will not smile calmly and 
with comfort if their memory serves them. 

Now a huge, naked, and intolerable shame and horror pressed 
down on Eugene with a crushing and palpable weight out of the wet, 
gray skies of autumn. The hideous gray stuff filled him from brain 
to bowels, was everywhere and in everything about him so that he 
breathed it out of the air, felt it like a naked stare from walls and 


houses and the faces of the people, tasted it on his lips, and endured it 
in the screaming and sickened dissonance of ten thousand writhing 
nerves so that he could no longer sit, rest, or find oblivion, exhaustion, 
forgetfulness or repose anywhere he went, or release from the wild 
unrest that drove him constantly about. He went to bed only to get up 
and prowl again the wet and barren little streets of night; he ate, and in- 
stantly vomited up again all he had eaten, and then, like a dull, dis- 
tressed and nauseated brute, he would sullenly and wretchedly eat again. 

He saw the whole earth with the sick eyes, the sick heart, the sick 
flesh, and writhing nerves of this gray accursed weight of shame and 
horror in which his life lay drowned, and from which it seemed he could 
never more emerge to know the music of health and joy and power 
again; and from which, likewise, he could not die, but must live hid- 
eously and miserably the rest of his days, like a man doomed to live for- 
ever in a state of retching and abominable nausea of heart, brain, bowels, 
flesh and spirit. 

It seemed to him that all was lost, that he had been living in a fool's 
dream for years, and that now he had been brutally wakened and 
saw himself as he was a naked fool who had never had an ounce of 
talent, and who no longer had an ounce of hope a madman who had 
wasted his money and lost precious years when he might have learned 
some work consonant with his ability and the lives of average men. And 
it now seemed to him, that his family had been terribly and mercilessly 
right in everything they had said and felt, and that he had been too great 
a fool to understand it. His sense of ruin and failure was abysmal, 
crushing, and complete. 


IT was in this temper, after two days of aimless and frenzied wander- 
ing about the streets of the town, and over the hills that surrounded it, 
during which time he was no more conscious of what he did, said, ate, 
thought or felt than a man in a trance, that Eugene started ofT suddenly 
to visit his other married sister, who lived in a little town in South Caro- 
lina. He had not seen her since his father's death a year ago, she 
had written him a few days before asking him to come down, and now, 
driven more by a fury of flight and movement than by any other im- 
pulse, he wired her he was coming, and started out in one of the Public 
Service motor cars which at that time made the trip across the mour- 
tains. Luke had arranged to meet him sixty miles from home at the 


town of Blackstone, in South Carolina, and drive him the remainder of 
the distance to his sister's house. 

He set out on a day in late October, wild and windy, full of ragged 
torn clouds of light that came and went from gray to gold and back to 
gray again. And everything that happened on that savage day he was to 
remember later with a literal and blazing intensity. 

Autumn had come sharp and quick that year. October had been full 
of frost and nipping days, the hills were glorious that year as Eugene had 
never seen them before. Now, only a day or two before, there had been, 
despite the early season, a sudden and heavy fall of snow. It still lay, 
light but fleecy, in the fields; and on the great bulk of the hills it lay in a 
pattern of shining white, stark grays and blacks, and the colors of the 
leaves, which now had fallen thickly and had lost their first sharp vivid- 
ness, but were still burning with a dull massed molten glow. 

An hour away, and twenty-five miles from home, the car had drawn 
up before the post-office of a mountain village or resort which lay at the 
crest of the last barrier of the hills, before the road dropped sharply down 
the mountain-side to South Carolina. 

While they were halted here, another car drove up an open, glitter* 
ing, and expensive-looking projectile of light gray and in it were three 
young men from home, two of whom Eugene knew. This car drew up 
abreast, stopped, and he saw that its driver was Robert Weaver. And 
although he had not seen the other youth since a midnight visit Robert 
had made to his room in Cambridge, the latter peered over towards 
him owlishly and without a word of greeting and with that abrupt, 
feverish, and fragmentary speech that was characteristic of him and 
was constantly becoming more dissonant and broken, he barked out: 

"Who's in there? Who's that sitting up there in the front seat? Is that 
you, Gene?" he called. 

When Gene assured him that it was, Robert asked where he was 
going. When he told him "Blackstone," he demanded at once that he 
leave the service car, and come with him. 

"We're going there, too," he said. Turning to his comrades, he added 
earnestly : 

"Aren't we? Isn't that where we're going, boys?" 

The two young men to whom he spoke now laughed boisterously, 
crying : 

"Yeah! That's right! That's where we're going, Robert," and one of 
them added with a solemn gravity: 


"We're going to Blackstone," here a slight convulsion seemed to 
seize his throat, he swallowed hard, hiccoughed, and concluded, "to see a 
football game" a statement which again set them of! into roars of bois- 
terous laughter. Then they all shouted at Eugene : 

"Come on! Come on! Get in! We've lots of room." 

Eugene got out of the service car, paid the driver, took the small hand- 
grip he had, and got into the other car with Robert and his two com- 
panions. They drove off fast, and almost immediately they were drop- 
ping down the mountain, along the sinuous curves and turns of the 
steep road. 

Robert's two companions on this journey were young men whom Eu- 
gene had not known in boyhood, with whom he had now only a speak- 
ing acquaintance, and both of whom were recent comers to the town. 
The older of these two was a man named Emmet Blake, and he now sat 
beside Robert on the fiont seat of the car. 

Emmet Blake was a man of twenty-seven years, a frail and almost 
wasted-looking figure of medium height, straight black hair, black eyes, 
and a thin, febrile, and corrupted-looking face which, although almost 
dead-white in its color, was given a kind of dark and feverish vitality 
by a faint thin smile that seemed always to hover about the edges of his 
mouth, and the dark unnatural glitter of his black eyes. 

He lived a reckless and dissipated life, and drank heavily: time after 
time, after a hemorrhage of the lungs, he had been taken to a sanitarium 
in an ambulance, and his death had seemed to be a matter of only a few 
hours. And time after time, he had come out again, and immediately 
started on another wild spree of women and corn whiskey with Robert 
and others of the same breed. He was well-oil as to money, and lived 
expensively, because he was a nephew of George Blake, the great Mid- 
dle-western manufacturer of cheap motor cars, which in twenty years' 
time had created twenty thousand jokes, and glutted the highways of 
the earth in twenty million tinny and glittering repetitions. 

The name of the other youth, who was Eugene's own age, and sat 
beside him on the back seat, was Kitchin. He was a tall, dark, handsome 
fellow, with agreeable manners and a pleasant voice, the nephew of a 
retired physician in the town but not native to the place. Eugene had 
seen him on the streets, but had never talked to him before. It was evi- 
dent that both Robert and his two friends had been drinking, although 
not heavily : there was in their manner the subdued yet wild and moun .- 
ing elation of young men when they begin to drink. They laughed a 


great deal, rather hilariously, and for no good reason : they insisted fre- 
quently that they were going to the town of Blackstonc to see a football 
game, an announcement which would set them off again in roars of 

Almost as soon as Eugene got in the car, and even as they started oflf 
again, Blake thrust his thin hand into the leather pocket of the door be- 
side him, produced a bottle that was three quarters full of Scotch whis- 
key, and turning, gave it to Eugene, saying: 

"Take a big one, Gant. We're all ahead of you." 

He drank long and deep, gulping the fiery liquor down his throat 
recklessly, feeling suddenly an almost desperate sense of release from the 
gray misery of hopelessness which had crushed him clown for days now, 
since the letter had come. When he had finished, he handed the bottle 
back to Emmet Blake, who took it, looked at it with a thin, evil, specu- 
lative smile, and said: 

"Well, that's pretty good. What do you say, Robert ? Shall we let him 
pass on that?" 

"Hell, no!" cried Robert hoarsely, looking swiftly around at the bot- 
tle. "That's no drink! Make him take a good one, Emmet. You've got to 
do better than that if you keep up with us," he cried, and then he burst 
out suddenly in his staccato laugh, shaking his head to himself as he bent 
over the wheel, and crying out: "Lord! Lord!" 

Blake handed Eugene the bottle again, and he drank some more. 
Then Kitchin took the bottle and drank; he handed it back to Emmet 
Blake, who drank, and Blake handed it to Robert who took it with one 
hand, his face turned slightly from the wheel, his eyes still fastened on 
the road, and drank until the bottle was empty. Then he flung it away 
from him across his arm. The bottle went sailing out across the road 
and down the gulch or deep ravine that sloped away beside them far 
down: the bottle struck a rock, exploding brilliantly in a thousand glit- 
tering fragments, and they all roared happily, and cheered. 

They had finished up that bottle in one round of gulps and swallows, 
passing it from hand to hand as they rushed down the mountain-side, 
and almost instantly they were at work on a beverage of a yet more in- 
stant and fiery power raw, white corn-whiskey, in a gallon jug, clear 
as water, rank and nauseous to an unaccustomed throat, strong and in- 
stant as the kick of a mule, fiery, choking, formidable, and savage. They 
hooked their thumbs into the handle of the jug, and brought the stuff 
across their shoulders with a free-hand motion, they let the wide neck 


pour into their tilted throats with a fat thick gurgle, and they gulped 
that raw stuff down with greedy gulpings like water going down a 
gully drain. 

It was a drink that would have felled an ox, a terrific lightning-blast of 
alcohol that would have thrown Polyphemus to the earth; and yet it was 
not drink alone that made them drunk that day. For they were all 
young men, and they had shouted, sung, and roared with laughter, and 
pounded one another with affectionate delight as they rushed on and 
it was not drink alone that made them drunk. 

For they felt that everything on earth was good and glorious, that 
everything on earth was made for their delight, that they could do no 
wrong and make no error, and that such invincible strength was in them 
that trees would fall beneath their stroke, the immortal hills bow down 
before their stride, and that nothing in the world could stop them. 

And for Eugene it seemed that everything had come to life for him 
at once that he had emerged instantly and victoriously from the horror 
of shame, the phantasmal and dreamlike unreality that had held him 
in its spell. It seemed to him that all the earth had come to life again in 
shapes of deathless and familiar brightness, that he had gloriously re- 
entered a life he thought he had lost forever, and that all the plain price- 
less joy and glory of the earth was his, as it had never been before. 

And first of all, and with an almost intolerable relief and happiness, 
he was conscious of the pangs of hunger: his famished belly and his 
withered guts which had for days shrunk wearily and with disgust from 
food, now, under the stimulation of a ravenous hunger, fairly pled 
for nourishment. He thought of food food in a hundred glorious 
shapes and varieties: the literal sensual images of food blazed in his 
mind like paintings from the brush of a Dutch master, and it seemed to 
him that no one had ever painted, spoken, or written about food before 
in a way that would do it justice. 

Later, these were the things Eugene would remember from that day 
with a living joy, for it was as if he had been born again, or discovered 
the world anew in all its glory. And besides all this a part, an element 
in all this whole harmonious design of triumphant joy and rediscovery 
was the way the hills had looked that day as they came down the 
mountain, the smell of the air which was mellow and autumnal, and 
yet had in it the premonitory breath of frost and sharpness, and the wild 
\oy, power, and ecstasy that had filled their hearts, their throats, their 
lives the sense of victory, triumph, and invincible strength, and of some 


rare, glorious, and intolerable happiness that was pending for them, and 
which seemed to swell the tremendous and exulting music of that magic 

Around them, above them, below them from the living and shining 
air of autumn, from the embrowned autumnal earth, from the great 
shapes of the hills behind them with their molten mass of color dull 
browns, rich bitter reds, dark bronze, and mellow yellow from 
the raw crude clay of the piedmont earth and the great brown stubble 
of the cotton fields from a thousand impalpable and unutterable things, 
there came this glorious breath of triumph and delight. It was late 
October, there was a smell of smoke upon the air, an odor of burning 
leaves, the barking of a dog, a misty red, a pollenated gold in the rich, 
fading, sorrowful, and exultant light of the day, and far off, a sound of 
great wheels pounding on a rail, the wailing whistle, and the tolling 
bell of a departing train. 

And finally, the immortal visage of the earth itself with the soaring 
and limitless undulations of its blue ranges, the great bulk of the autumn 
hills, immense and near, the rugged, homely, and familiar trees the 
pines, oaks, chestnuts, maples, locusts the homely look of the old red 
clay the unforgettable and indescribable naturalness of that earth 
with its rudeness, wildness, richness, rawness, ugliness, fathomless mys- 
tery and utter familiarity, and finally the lonely, haunting, and en- 
chanted music that it made the strange spirit of time and solitude that 
hovered above it eternally, and which can never be described, but which 
may be evoked by a cow-bell broken by the wind in distant valleys, the 
lonely whistle of a departing train, or simply a sinuous gust of wind that 
smokes its way across coarse mountain grasses when spring comes 
all this, which Eugene had felt and known in his childhood, and yet 
had never had a tongue to utter, he seemed now to know and under- 
stand so well that he had himself become its tongue and utterance, the 
more its child because he had been so long away from it, the more its 
eye because he now saw it again as it must have seemed to the first men 
who ever saw it, with the eyes of discovery, love, and recognition. 

And yet, for him all these things spoke instantly, intolerably, exult- 
antly, not of home, return, and settlement, but of one image, which now 
burned forever in his brain, rose like a triumphant music in his heart. 
And that image was the image of the enchanted city, in which, it now 
seemed, all the frenzy and unrest of .his spirit would find a certain goal 


and triumph, and toward which everything on earth, and all the hope 
and joy now rising in his heart, was tending. 

When they got down off the mountain into South Carolina they were 
very drunk. On a dusty sand-clay road between some cotton /ields they 
stopped the car, and walked out into the fields to piss. The cotton stood 
stiff and dry and fleecy in its pods, the coarse brown stalks rose up in 
limitless planted rows, and underneath, he could see the old and homely 
visage of the red-clay earth. 

At one edge of the field, and seeming very far away and .lonely-look- 
ing, there was a negro shanty, and behind this a desolate wooded stretch 
of pine. Over all the earth at once, now that the roar of ':lie engine had 
stopped, there was an immense and brooding quietness, a drowsed au- 
tumnal fume and warmth, immensely desolate and mournful, holding 
somehow a tragic prophecy of winter that must come, and death, and yet 
touched with the lonely, mournful and exultant mystery of the earth. 

Eugene pulled several of the big cotton stalks out of the dry red 
earth, thrust one through the button-hole of his coat lapel, and tore it 
through exultantly, although the stalk was two feet long. Then he 
reeled back toward the car again, holding the other stalks of cotton in 
his hands, got in the car, and at once began to talk to his companions 
about the cotton ending up in a passionate oration about the hills, the 
fields, the cotton and the earth trying to tell them all about "the South" 
and making of the stalks of cotton and "the South" a kind of symbol, as 
young men will, although they all felt and acted just as young men 
anywhere would do. 

But at that moment, all Eugene was trying to say about his years away 
from home, and his return, and how he had discovered his own land 
again and was, "by God," one of them waving the stalks of cotton as 
he talked, and finding the whole core and kernel of all he wished to say 
in these stalks of cotton all of this, although incoherent, drunken, and 
confused, seemed so eloquent and beautiful to him, so truthful, pas- 
sionate, and exact that he began to weep for joy as he talked to them. 
And they they were, of course, delighted : they howled with laughter, 
cheered enthusiastically, slapped him on the back, and shook hands all 
around, crying "By God! Listen to him talk! , , . Give 'em hell, son! 
We're with you! . . . Hot-damn! Thataway, boy! . . . Stay with ? em! 
. . Whee!" 


Meanwhile, Robert was driving at terrific speed. They had begun to 
rip and tear along between the cotton fields, and over the dusty sand- 
clay roads, mistaking the screams of women and the shouts of men, as 
they swerved by their cars and wagons in a cloud of yellow dust and 
at a murderous clip, for admiring applause and enthusiastic cheers, an 
illusion which only spurred them on to greater efforts. 

The upshot of it was that they finally tore into town, careening hide- 
ously along a central street, and with no slackening of their speed what- 
ever. The excited people in that part of the State had been phoning in 
about them for the last fifteen miles of their mad journey, and now 
they were halted suddenly at sight of the police who stood lined up 
across the street in a double row big, red-faced, country cops to stop 

The first brilliant, sparkling and wildly soaring effects of their in- 
toxication had now worn off and, although they still felt full of power 
and a savage rending strength, the corn whiskey was now smouldering 
in their veins more dully and with a sombre and brutal drunkenness. 
Eugene seemed to sec all shapes and figures clearly the coarse red faces 
of the country cops and their clumsy lumbering bodies, and the street 
drowsy and dusty in the warmish autumn afternoon. 

The grasses on the lawns of houses were faded, sere and withered- 
looking, the leaves upon the trees had thinned and hung yellowed, dry 
and dead, and in the gutters a few dead leaves stirred dryly, a few 
scampered dryly in the streets before a moment's gust of wind, and then 
lay still again. 

Robert slowed down and stopped before that solid wall of beefy coun- 
try blue and red: the police surrounded them and clambered heavily 
over the sides of the car, two standing on the fenders, two on either side 
of Eugene on the back seat, and one with Robert and Emmet Blake up 

"All right, boys," said one of them, good-naturedly and casually 
enough, in the full, sonorous and somewhat howling voice of the coun- 
try man, "drive on down thar to the station house now." 

"Yes, sir! Yes, sir!" Robert replied at once in a meek and obedient 
tone, and with a comical drunken alacrity. "How do you get there, 
Captain?" he said with a cunning and flattering ingratiation. 

"Right down this here street to your right," said the policeman in his 
drawling and countrified tone, "until you come to that 'air second turn- 
ing where you see that 'air far hydrant. Turn in to the left thar," he said 


"Yes, sir!" said Robert heartily, starting the car again. "We're all 
strangers here," he lied, as if he hoped this lie might make amends for 
them. "We don't know our way about yet." 

"Well," the policeman drawled with a kind of ugly heartiness, "may- 
be the next time you come back you'll be better acquainted here," he 
said, winking at his comrades, and they all guffawed. "We're glad to 
see you, boys," he continued, still with this ugly falseness of good nature 
in his tone. "We been hearin' about you," he said, winking at his fel- 
lows again, "an* we wanted to git acquainted." 

Here the policemen laughed again with sonorous countrified appre- 
ciation of their spokesman's wit. 

The policemen were all big beefy men, with hearty drawling voices, 
red countrified faces. They had large square feet, wore dusty-looking 
black slouch hats with a wide brim, and were dressed in rather gaudy 
but slovenly-looking uniforms, with stripes of gold braid running up 
the sides of their baggy trousers, and with the lower brass buttons of 
their heavy blue coats unbuttoned, exposing areas of soiled shirts and 
paunchy bellies. Their faces had a look of a slow but powerful energy, 
a fathomless and mindless animal good nature, and at the same time a 
fathomless and mindless animal cruelty instant, volcanic, and mur- 
derous written terribly somehrsw into their wide, thin and horribly 
cruel mouths, in which there was legible a vitality that had all the wild 
and sensual force of nature packed into it, and was therefore beyond 
nature almost super-natural in its savage and mindless qualities. 

He had seen them standing idly on the corners of the little towns, 
huge and slovenly, swinging their thonged clubs in the great muttons 
of their hands, surveying with their great red faces and their wide 
thin mouths of fathomless cruelty and good nature the crowds that 
swarmed around them. He had heard their drawling howling accents 
of the country, that had all of the moisture and distance of the earth in 
them, and seen their slow minds wake to a mindless and murderous 
fury. Once as a child he had seen one of them, a ponderous giant so 
huge he lurched from side to side when he walked, and seemed to fill 
the street up with his size, beat a drunken old man a little howling 
integument of bone and gristle to death with his club, smashing the 
little old man across the skull until the blood rushed out in torrents 
through his sparse silvery hair, lacing its way in channels of brilliant red 
across his face and through his beard, until it seemed incredible so small 
nd old a man could have such fountains of bright blood in him. 


And these huge creatures evoked for Eugene a whole history of this 
earth and people, monstrous, savage, and unutterable a congruent and 
unspeakable legend which he knew, and all of them knew, down to the 
roots, and which he could not speak about and had to speak about, some- 
how, or die. For in these men there was evident not only the savage and 
mindless energy of the earth itself, with all that was wild, sensual, 
fecund, cruel and good-natured the whole weather of life but there 
was also evident the fear, the shame, the horror that had crushed them 
beneath its ocean weight of nameless and cowering dread, and broken 
or destroyed their souls. 

The two policemen who had clambered into the back seat of the car 
and now sat on each side of Eugene had these mountainous and fleshy 
figures, heavy, yet with a kind of solid and ugly softness, meaty, and 
without the muscular and sinewy leanness of young men. The back 
seat of the car was a narrow one the car was a new "sports model" 
designed only for four people and now the huge fleshy figures of 
these two policemen, wedged against Eugene, gave him a feeling of dis- 
gust and revulsion. 

Nevertheless, the feeling of exultant and jubilant power had not yet 
worn ofT, and although he had understood at once, when he saw the 
men lined up across the street, that they were under arrest and would be 
taken to the city jail, this sordid prospect caused him no uneasiness what- 
ever. Rather, the feeling of drunken joy was still so powerful in him that 
everything on earth seemed good, and everything that happened won- 
derful. He hailed the experience of being arrested and taken to jail 
exultantly as if some fortunate and glorious experience was in. store for 
him, and his exuberant affection for the world was so great that he even 
liked the policemen. 

Eugene howled with laughter, smote them on their broad backs, flung 
his arms out and around their shoulders, saying, "By God, you're fine 
fellows, both of you, and you've got to have a drink!" 

At this Robert laughed uneasily, saying to the policemen: 

"Don't pay any attention to him! We haven't got anything to drink 
I swear we haven't." 

One of them had been rummaging around, however, and now trium- 
phantly produced the jug from its hiding place beneath Blake's legs. 

"Here it is, boys," he cried, as he displayed it. "I've got it." 

The glass jug was almost empty, but there was still perhaps an inch 


of the whiskey at the bottom. Robert's face had a worried look, for the 
law was such that a capture of this sort might also mean the confiscation 
of the owner's car. 

Blake, meanwhile, had been talking in a low, craftily persuasive tone 
of drunken insinuation and bribery to the policeman up front, saying: 

"Now I know you boys don't want to get us into any trouble. We 
weren't doing anything wrong just having a drink or two together 
and if you fellows will just forget about this thing, we'll fix it up 
right with you anything you say," he whispered cunningly, "and get 
on out of town right now without any one knowing a thing about it, 
What do you say, now? Come on! You can do it," he said, with a leer 
of ingratiation. 

The policeman to whom he spoke smiled good-naturedly, but said 
nothing. At this moment they drove up before the station house, a 
shabby-looking little building of brick, with bars over the window, and 
which was situated on a side-street. 

The shabby street looked warm, faded, sleepy, touched with the 
ghosts of autumn, but in an instant, as the police got out, opened the 
doors, and the gay men clambered down drunkenly among them, a 
rabble-rout of ragged negro boys, grinning, gape-mouthed countrymen 
with red faces, slouchy-looking barbers in their shirt-sleeves, and wormy- 
looking loafers, had gathered magically from nowhere, stood in a ring 
about them and snickered and shuffled about, pressed up to the barred 
windows and peered in curiously with shaded eyes as the policemen 
took them into the station. 

As they started, Robert held back a little, and said hoarsely, and 
in a plaintive, troubled voice to the policeman who had him by the arm : 

"What are you taking us in here for? We weren't doing anything. 
Honest we weren't. What are you going to do to us?" 

The policeman smiled good-humoredly, and then said in a hearty 
reassuring voice : 

"Aw, we're not goin' to do anything to you. We were just atraid you 
boys might run into something and hurt yourself, that's all. We're just 
goin' to take you in here, and let you stay here a little while until you 
feel better," he said, at the same time winking at his fellows. 

"Well," said Robert sullenly, casting a troubled and unwilling glance 
back at his shining car, " I want to find my car here when I come out. 
Now if anything happens to that car, there's going to be trouble," he 
said ominously. 


"That car will be right here when you come out the way you left it s " 
the policeman said heartily. "No one is goin' to touch it. No, sir! I'll 
look after that car myself!" he said, winking again at the others. 

"All right, then," said Robert. "That's all I want to know." 

Then they marched all of them into the station house. 

The room they entered was a large one, and at first, because they had 
corne into it out of the brightness of the sun, and the swimming confu- 
sion of drunkenness and arrest, it was so dark Eugene could not dis- 
tinguish clearly any of its features. Then he saw that it was a square, 
rather high room with worn wooden floors, wainscoting of a dark 
varnished brown, and above that rude calcimined walls of white. In the 
wall along the street, there were, besides the door, two barred windows 
which were very dirty and not very large, and did not give much light. 

At one end of the room, as they came in, there was a row of dull green 
lockers, probably for the use of the police, and at the other end a 
high, square, somewhat majestical-looking desk, which was also of 
a dark maply-brown and which seemed to be built on an elevated 
rostrum or platform a few inches high. Over this desk a light with 
a green glass shade was burning, and behind it another large red- 
faced policeman was sitting. By his look of authority, and the military 
opulence of his slovenly uniform for he had epaulets of thick gold 
braid upon his shoulders that would have glorified the uniform of a 
general in the Marine Corps he seemed to be the superior in command. 

As for the rest of the room, there was little decoration save for a row 
of worn and rickety-looking wooden chairs with rounded backs along 
the wall, and a liberal distribution of large brass spittoons which, to 
judge from the bare wooden boards around them, were used less fre- 
quently as receptacles than as targets, and obviously with uncertain suc- 

Finally, the whole place had the unforgettable look and smell that 
police stations everywhere and particularly those in little towns have 
always had. Its stale dark air was impregnated with the odor of cheap 
cigars and tobacco-juice, of old worn varnished wood, of human sweat 
and urine and heavy wool, and with the strong tarry odor of a sani- 
tary disinfectant. And somehow, in this stale, dark and weary odor, 
there was also a quality of terror, menace, and foreboding as if the 
huge and dingy chronicle of human tragedy and error which this 
grim room had witnessed all the brutal, shabby sinfulness of a little 
town that swarming, hideous and tawdry fraternity of poverty, vice 


and error dredged from its rat-holes in the dark depths of old brick 
buildings, hunted out of cheap hotels, pool rooms, greasy little lunch 
rooms, nigger shacks, and the rickety wooden whore-houses near the 
railroad tracks, with its vast brotherhood of scarred and battered men 
and women chain-gang niggers, drunken country youths and cheap 
bootleggers, grimy prostitutes and all their furtive bawds and pimps, 
cutters, sluggers, slabbers, slashers, and brawlers both those who live 
by vice and those who are its victims this whole huge earth of pain 
and crime and misery had left the terrible imprint of its history so 
indelibly there that the weary air was impregnated with sorrow and 
fear, and the wood, walls, floors and ceilings were seasoned and ingrained 
with the substance of human wretchedness. 

When they had come in, the police had lined up Eugene's three com- 
panions before the imposing rostrum where the desk officer was sitting, 
but they had placed him carefully to one side against the wall, like an 
object too rare and precious for ordinary usage. Now, as the great man 
behind the desk glowered down gloomily and mistrustfully at them, one 
of the police spoke to the desk sergeant and, turning toward Eugene 
with a nod of the head, declared in a full countrified tone: 

"This big 'un here's the drunkest of the lot." 

And the enthroned law bent his gloomy gaze upon him with a hostile 
and suspicious look which said as plain as words that it was no more 
than he had suspected. 

Eugene had not realized, in fact, until he felt that wall against his 
shoulders, how very drunk he was; but he was drunker now than he 
had ever b?en in all his life before. He could feel his back slide down 
along the wall, and then his bending knees would straighten with a 
jerk, and he would solemnly begin to slide up the wall again. Mean- 
while, the room swam and rocked and then was still before his eyes : the 
shapes of things would melt into a smear, and then resolve into their 
proper selves once more. 

And he was conscious that the police were searching him and his 
companions, patting their pockets to see if they carried weapons, exam- 
ining wallets and letters for identifications, taking their watches from 
them, and arraigning them on a series of formal charges, some of which 
had no bearing on their case whatever. Drunk, assuredly, they were; 
disorderly they might have been although it had not seemed so to 
them; of driving in a reckless manner they were guilty; but of resisting 


an officer in the performance of his duty they had been, up to that time- 
spotlessly innocent. 

But such were the charges delivered against them in sonorous and 
countrified tones. And in the solemn voices of the policemen, the 
knowing and portentous way in which they searched the young men 
as if they were a gang of armed desperadoes, and in a manner that 
smacked of correspondence-school detective methods and finally in the 
solemn countrified tones of the one who had pointed to Eugene, say- 
ing: "This big 'un here's the drunkest of the lot," there was something 
comical and ludicrous. 

But in their sense of banded authority, in the stubborn almost con- 
spiratorial way in which they had now hardened in a group against the 
young men, forsaking the good-humored and jovial manners which 
had heretofore distinguished them, there was something ugly and 
revolting something stupid, provincial, mob-like, and unreasoning, 
which told the young men plainly that "they had them" now, that they 
were "foreigners," therefore suspect, and must bow their heads in si- 
lence to the obdurate and capricious tyrannies of a local and, for them, 
impregnable authority. 

At length, the sonorous formalities of their arraignment having been 
completed, the sergeant having scrawled and written in his ledger, the 
man looked up and ordered sternly: 

"All right, boys! Take 'em back and lock 'em up!" 

Then the young men were marched back along a corridor into a large 
two-storied room, which had brick walls and cement floors, two rows of 
dirty barred windows, a gray and gelid light, and a general feel of 
raw and clammy dankness. This room, which had a harsh angular steel- 
and-cement newness that the other did not have, seemed to be of more 
recent construction, and to have been added on to the front part of the 
jail. In this room, also, there were several rows of cells, ascending in 
tiers up to the ceiling. When they entered, the place was quiet, but im- 
mediately a drunken negress in one of the cells began to bawl and rave 
and sob, smashing, hammering, and rattling the bars of her cell like a 
demented ape. There was everywhere a foul rank odor of undrained 
fecal matter, tempered with the odor of the tarry disinfectant, and cut 
more sharply with the acrid smell of some ammoniac fluid. 

At the first row of cells they paused, and the police in charge of Rob- 
ert and Emmet Blake (for Eugene now discovered with a sense of shock 
that Kitchin was not with them) unlocked the doors of cells two and 


three and thrust Blake and Robert into them. The last, or end, cell in 
the row, Eugene now saw was intended for his occupancy and he stood 
waiting obediently, in the relaxed grip of one of the policemen, until 
his comrade should unlock the door. 

Suddenly, as the door swung open, and Eugene stepped forward into 
the cell, his vision cleared somewhat, and he saw a young negro stand- 
ing in the cell, beside the iron bed that projected from the wall, looking 
toward him with a startled expression on his face that suggested he had 
been asleep upon the cot, and had been rudely wakened by their en- 
trance. Instantly, one fixed and all-obsessing belief began to burn in 
Eugene's inflamed and drunken brain. He thought that he was being 
put here with this negro because the jail was crowded and the cell-space 
scanty, and further and this was the thing that maddened him and 
that he found intolerable because, as the policeman had said when 
they arraigned the young men, "this big 'un here's the drunkest of the 
lot," and they thought he was too drunk to notice or to care about the 
advantage they were taking of him. 

For this reason and this reason only he now acted as he did. As 
far as the negro himself was concerned, Eugene bore no grudge against 
him, and the feeling of shame and degradation which had swept over 
him in an overwhelming flood when he saw the cell and knew he was 
to be locked in it like an animal was so great that he would not have 
cared with whom he had to share that cell, if it had been the custom of 
the country so to share it. But the custom of the country was not so, he 
knew, and the belief that he was being put upon, his drunkenness taken 
advantage of, and that he was being dealt with less fairly than the 
others, now so stung his maddened pride that he turned and kicked the 
iron door back in the faces of the two policemen, just as they were clos- 
ing it. 

Then he started to come out of the cell. When he did, the two big 
red-faced policemen came running forward with a lumbering, panting, 
and somehow revolting clumsiness and tried to push him back into the 
cell. When this happened, something dark, gray, and terrible that he 
had never known before rose up in his soul and this thing, which now 
came to him for the first time, was to return often in the savage years 
that followed. 

As the police came rushing towards Eugene his fury and despera- 
tion were so great that he felt little or no fear, but the sensations of 
horror and disgust were so terrible that they drove him mad, and he 


seemed to be drowning in them. And the first visible and physical, al- 
ihough perhaps not the basic, causes of these sensations of horror and 
disgust came from the mountainous figures of the two policemen, and 
the feel of their huge soft-solid bodies as they jammed against him. For, 
if they had quelled his rebellion at the outset by smashing him over the 
head with their clubs, he might have felt a moment's fear before the club 
crashed on his skull, but he would not have felt horror and disgust. 

But the sight, the feel, the smell, the look of these huge soft-solid 
bodies of mountainous flesh, and the revolting clumsiness of their move- 
ments, made the thing horrible. As they rushed towards Eugene and 
tried to thrust him back into the cell, he grabbed hold of the bars on 
either side of the door, and began to howl at them and curse them 
ioully, and to butt at them with his head. When this happened the 
policemen braced themselves together like turn-squat Buddhas, holding 
on to the bars with their huge muttony hands, that had no leanness in 
them, and butted back at Eugene with their huge soft-solid stomachs. 

They stood, half-squatly, side by side, their muttony hands gripped 
around the bars, their great red faces moist and panting, their huge 
buttocks somehow obscenely womanish in their fat breadth, as they 
butted back clumsily at him with their soft ponderous bellies all of 
this, and the revolting contact of their flesh against his own, filled him 
with such an infinite loathing of horror and disgust that he went mad. 

Once more he struggled to push his way out, and again the two 
big poiicemen braced themselves clumsily against him and tried to 
push him back in. One of the men raised his ponderous fist and 
shouted: "Git back in thar now or I'll hit ye." A huge muttony fist 
smashed squarely on his nose and mouth: he butted, cursed, amid a 
pin-wheel aura of exploding rockets: the fist smashed hard again below 
one eye: the boy screamed like a wounded animal and cursing horribly 
all the time began to use his head as a battering ram, butting again and 
again at the fat red faces. 

Meanwhile the other one, grunting and puffing, and with his tongue 
between his teeth, began to thump, tug and wrench at the fingers of 
one hand, trying to loosen them from the bar, and saying to his fellow: 

"You git his other hand, Jim, an' try to make him turn a-loose." 

During all this time that Eugene had been cursing and butting at these 
men, he had also been shouting "You God-damned red-faced South Car'- 
lina bastards, you're not going to lock me up in here with a nigger no 
you ain't!" and now he felt something rough and wooly scraping un- 


derneath his arm. It was the frightened negro's head. He went squirm- 
ing out below Eugene's arm until he was outside peering with white 
eyeballs over a policeman's shoulder, and when Eugene saw they would 
not try to keep the negro there with him, he went back into the cell and 
was locked up. He felt very sick, and everything was swimming nau- 
seously around him: for a while he leaned over the w. c. and vomited 
into it. Then he sat down on the edge of the cot, and stared ahead, 
thinking about nothing, but with something hideous, like a great gray 
smear, inside him. 


How long he sat there in this way he did not know, for time would 
pass in a hideous smear of brownish gray while all things reeled, mixed, 
and were fused drunkenly and shapelessly around him and then for a 
moment time would burn in his mind like a small hard light of brilliant 
color, and he would see everything with an exact and blazing vividness 
and hear the voices of his comrades in their cells. 

The cell Eugene sat in was a little cubicle of space, perhaps eight feet 
deep, and four or five feet wide. Its only furnishings were a black iron cot 
or bed which projected from the wall and could be turned up or out, 
and which had no springs or mattress on it, and a w. c. of dirty white 
enamel, which had no seat, and was broken and would not flush, so that 
it had run over and spilled out upon the cement floor. The walls and 
ceilings of the cell were made of some hard slate-like substance of black- 
gray, scrawled with the familiar obscenities and pictures of its former oc- 
cupants. Because of these solid walls, each cell was cut off from its neigh- 
bors and for this reason he could not see Emmet Blake, who had the cell 
next to him, nor Robert, who had the cell on the other side of Emmet, 
but now, as his mind swam from the stupor of its drunkenness, he could 
hear their voices, and began to listen to their conversation. 

Both were still quite drunk, and for a while they continued a kind of 
mournful drunken chant, each responding to the other with a repetition 
of his own misfortune. 

"Yes, sir," Robert would say, heaving a sigh and speaking in a hoarse, 
mournfully drunken voice, "this is certainly a hell of a way to treat a 
man who's just been admitted to the bar six weeks ago! A hell of a 
thing!" he said. 

4nd Blake would answer: 


"Yes, sir! And I'll tell you what is a hell of a thing! This is a hell of 
a way to treat George Blake's nephew! A hell o a way!" he said. "If 
my uncle knew about this he'd come down here and tear their damned 
little jail to pieces! He'd ruin their town!" he cried. "Yes, sir! He'd 
wash 'em out and send 'em to the cleaners! Why!" Blake now said in 
a tone of drunken boastfulness, "there are 70,000 Blake dealers in the 
United States alone and if they knew that 7 was here," he said, "every 
damned one of them would be on his way here in five minutes to get 
us out!" 

"Lord! Lord!" said Robert, in a kind of mournful brooding ululation, 
as if he had not heard Blake's words at all. "Who'd have thought it? A 
young attorney just admitted to the bar six weeks ago and here he is 
in jail! The damnedest thing I ever heard of!" he declared. 

"Yes, sir," Blake declared, not by way of response, but with the same 
self-centred concentration on the indignity which had been visited on 
him. "If you told any Blake dealer in the country that George Blake's 
nephew was down here in the Blackstone jail, he wouldn't believe you. 
Uncle George will carry this thing to the Supreme Court when we get 
out," he said. "It is certainly a hell of a thing to happen to George Blake's 

"Yes, sir," Robert answered, "a hell of a thing to happen is right and 
here I've only had my license to practise, for six weeks. Why, it's awful!" 
he said solemnly. 

"Robert!" Blake cried suddenly, getting to his feet. -"Do you guess 
these damned Blackstone cops know who I am? Do you guess they 
realize they've got George Blake's nephew here?" Here he went to the 
door of his cell, rattled it violently, and yelled: "Hey y! I'm George 
Blake's nephew! Do you know you've got George Blake's nephew back 
here? Come and let me out!" he shouted. No one answered. 

Then they would be silent for a while, and mournful, brooding 
drunken time would pass around them. 

Then Blake would say: 


"What do you want?" said Robert mournfully. 

"What time is it?" 

"Hell, how do I know what time it is," said Robert in a sullen and 
protesting tone. "You know they took my watch." Then there would be 
silence for a moment more. 

"Emmet?" Robert would then say. 


"All right. What is it?" 

"Did they take your watch, too?" 

"Yes!" Blake shouted suddenly in an angry and excited tone. "And 
that was an eighteen carat, thirty-two jewel platinum-case watch that 
Uncle George bought for me in Switzerland. That watch is worth $225 
and I'd better get it back when I get out of here!" he shouted rattling the 
door. "Do you hear? If those sons-of-bitches try to steal my watch, 
my Uncle George will put 'em all in jail! I want it back!" he shouted. 

No one answered. 

Then they were silent for another spell of time, and finally Robert 
said in a hoarse, brooding, and mournful tone. 



"Are you there?" 

"Where the hell do you think I am?" Eugene said bitterly. "You 
don't see any holes in this place you can crawl out of, do you?" 

Robert laughed his hoarse falsetto laugh, and then said with a kind 
of brooding wonder : 

"Lord! Lord! Who'd have thought it? Who'd ever have thought 
Eugene and I would get put in jail together here in Blackstone, South 
Carolina. Here I am just out of Yale and admitted to the bar six weeks 
ago and you boy!" he laughed suddenly his annoying falsetto laugh, 
and concluded "Just got back from three years at Harvard and here 
you are in jail already! Lord! Lord! What are you going to tell your 
mother when she sees you ? What's she going to say when you tell her 
you've been in jail?" 

"Oh, I don't know!" the other said angrily. "Shut up!" 

Robert laughed his annoying falsetto laugh again, and said: 

"Boy! I'd hate to have to face her! I'm glad I'm not in your shoes!" 

"Not in my shoes!" the other shouted in an exasperated tone. "You 
damned fool, you are in my shoes!" 

Then they were silent for a spell, and gray time ticked wearily around 
them the slow remorseless sound of its interminable minutes. 

Presently Blake spoke, out of a drunken silence, saying: 


"What is it?" 

"What time is it now?" 

"I don't know. They have my watch," he said. 

And gray time ticked around them. 


"Robert," Eugene said at length, straightening from his dejected 
stupor on the cot, "did you see that nigger?" 

"What nigger? 1 ' Robert said stupidly. 

"Why the nigger they tried to put in here with me!" he said. 

"Why, I didn't see any nigger, Gene," said Robert in a hoarse and 
drunken tone of mild and melancholy protest. "When was this?" 

"Why, Robert!" the other boy now cried in an excited voice, and with 
a feeling of hideous dread inside him. "You were right here all the time! 
Didn't you hear us?" 

"Why, no, Eugene," Robert answered in a slow protesting voice that 
had dull wonder and surprise in it. "I didn't hear anything," he said. 

"Why, my God, Robert!" Eugene now cried excitedly, and even with 
a kind of frenzy in his tone. "You must have heard us! Why, we were 
fighting here for ten minutes!" he said, for the time of the struggle now 
seemed at least that long to him. 

"Who?" said Robert, dully and stupidly. 

"Why, me and those two big cops!" he cried. "Good God, Robert^ 
didn't you see us? didn't you hear us? butting and kicking like a 
goat hitting me over the head, trying to make me turn a-loose!" he 
cried in an excited, almost incoheient tone. 

"Who did?" Robert stupidly inquired. 

"Why those two big cops, Robert that's who! Good God., do 
you mean to tell me that you never heard us when we were cursing and 
butting away there right in front of you!" 

"I didn't hear anything I thought you said a nigger," he said in a 
stupid and confused tone. 

"Why, Robert, that's what I'm telling you!" Eugene shouted. "They 
had him in here " 


"Why, in the cell! They were trying